The City Council is banking on the approval on third and final reading of the bulk water project of Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc. (AAII) to ward off the impending water crisis in the city.
The City Council conducted marathon sessions this week to approve the ordinance granting the company’s request for additional allowable use for 85,258 square meter of land for the establishment of a Water Treatment Facility in Barangay Gumalang, Baguio District.
The request was first presented to the City Council in June this year but was remanded to the committee level for further discussion after several issues were raised including the protest of Barangay Tamugan regarding the assignment of the Davao City Water District’s (DCWD) water rights to AAII.
AAII, a partnership between Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (AEV) and J.V. Angeles Construction Corp. (JVACC), is set to start the construction of a P10-billion hydroelectric-powered water treatment facility by fourth quarter this year if it is able to secure all the necessary permits.
The project is expected to supply 300 million liters of water per day to the city for 30 years.
“We have started with the design and once we get the allowable use we will now get the Certification for Eligibility to Convert from the Department of Agriculture and then to the Department of Agrarian Reform for conversion,” AAII General Manager Cirilo Almario III said.
Almario said the target is to start operation of the bulk water facility by 2019 but maybe this could stretch to the middle of 2020 due to the problem of securing permits from government agencies.
However, Councilor Jesus Joseph Zozobrado, who initially indicated his intention to abstain from voting due to certain environmental and other concerns, said his affirmative vote is still subject to certain conditions including a manifestation by the company that the power that will be generated from the hydropower plant will be for the exclusive use of the bulk water plant and not sold to the grid.
AAII Director Manuel Orig initially refused to make that manifestation considering that the primary purpose of the business under its articles of corporation is to develop and manage infrastructure projects. Orig said the definition of primary purpose therefore includes the right to sell excess power to other parties other than AAII.
Orig said that while Apo Agua does not have any intention to sell power at this time, it will ask the Council’s endorsement when they find the need to sell power later on.
Zozobrado however refused to budge and insisted on abstaining from voting in the absence of such manifestation from AAII. This was during last Monday’s second reading, a vital part of the approval since the Council needed to muster 21 votes and there were only 21 councilors present at that time.
Councilor Bernard Al-ag said the hydropower plant’s expected output is 2.2MW and the power required to run the bulk water facility is also 2.2 MW so there is little chance of any excess energy.
Zozobrado’s reservation in voting for the bulk water project is due to the possible negative effects on the city’s environment and aquifer considering that the plant will be built in a watershed area. He said the building of any structure on the watershed is a prohibited act but it did provided for an exemption including majority vote of all the members and upon proof and showing that said structure enclosure, or conduct of business shall be beneficial to the watershed areas.
City Council resolution No. 02754-16 series of 2016 originally granted approval and concurrence to the bulk water project of AAII and DCWD. Despite his belief that the previous council approved the exemption with the said conditions in mind, he said that these conditions were not sufficiently and convincingly showed.
Zozobrado said while this is beneficial to the water system of Davao as it will provide a respite to the underground sources, Tamugan is part of water system and this will be affected by the project.
The zoning ordinance stated that additional allowable use maybe allowed by the City Council provided it fulfills it has socio-economic and environmental significance. It should also not adversely affect the environment and not alter the zone or subzone.
“There is no doubt the project being proposed by Apo Agua will contribute to the development of the city. Projects such as this are laudable, but during deliberation of this item I raised several concerns, unfortunately, some of these concerns have not been sufficiently addressed,” he said.
He said the operations will not only be in Barangay Gumalang but will traverse to Tamugan River which is a watershed area.
“Since it is classified as an industrial business it will alter the character of the zone and subzone. Once we allow its approval without solving the legitimate issues we will face legal and environmental problems,” he said.
Zozobrado however voted yes after getting Orig’s commitment on the conditions he initially stated. This includes a letter from the Department of Energy which will clarify that AAII has the exclusive right to explore and develop the hydroelectric sources of non-conservation areas, and that for conservation areas, other entities can apply for its development.
Water crisis solution?
Second District Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang appealed for the approval of the bulk water project since his district has been suffering from lack of water supply for years now.
Davao City Water District (DCWD) General Manager Engr. Edwin Regalado previously told the councilors that they will be able to provide 24-hour water supply to all areas in Cabantian in the second district once they complete all necessary interventions by December this year.
Regalado said DCWD will be able to provide water for all of its consumers in Cabantian with the completion of its last project this year. The remaining project which is already 49 percent complete, involves 2,000 households who are still experiencing intermittent water supply.
Cherry Mae Hidalgo of DCWD’s Engineering Department earlier said DCWD has implemented mitigating measures to augment the availability of water supply for Cabantian residents.
Hidalgo said DCWD is currently serving 212,995 local service connections in the city through 10 independent water supply systems. Each has its own water source, ground water sources, storage facility and transmission and distribution pipeline.
Out of the total service connections, 5 percent or 10,312 is under the Cabantian Water Supply System, which is basically the problematic area. It has four water sources with a total capacity of 14,757 cubic meters per day. Total combined production of these water sources is 14,745 cubic meter per day.
“Due to massive housing development in the area, the recharge zone has been significantly diminished resulting to slower replenishment of aquifer in the area, and aggravated by the El Nino phenomenon in 2015-2016 resulting to actual flow of only 5,930 cubic meters,’ she said.
Hidalgo said that with a total connection of 10,212 and considering one household with five members can consume an average consumption of one cubic meter per day, there is a water deficit of 4,382 cubic meters per day. As a result of the water shortage, there are areas with intermittent water supply or without water supply during peak hours from 6am to 10am. There are areas situated in elevated portion that has no water supply at all. The low-lying areas near vicinity of water source have 24 hour water service.
“As part of medium term development project we have forecasted population growth in the area and we have explored four water sources in the area,” she said. Out of the four water wells only two were found to be sufficient and the other two are not operational since it exhibiting low water yield and poor quality. Lovely A. Carillo