Driven by well grounded fears of over extraction and the imminent drying up of their respective precious aquifers drove hundreds of residents of six barangays in Panglao to mount a signature campaign as their statement of solidarity expressing their strong opposition to the digging of additional wells by a water company.
The Sangguniang Barangays (village councils) of Looc, Bolod, Danao, Lourdes, Bil-isan and Tawala and the Liga ng mga Barangay, Panglao Chapter vented their “strong objections” thru resolutions sent to the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) against the water permit application of Panglao Water Services, Inc.
NWRB, the government agency responsible for all water resources in the Philippines made known thru the Sangguniang Bayan of Panglao the water permit application of Panglao Water Services, Inc to search for groundwater sources within the areas of the six barangays.
Politics seeped into the water digging controversy after several residents of the six barangays sought the assistance of former Mayor Doloreich Dumaluan due to the inability of the LGU to shed light on the digging activities of Abejo Water Corporation and Panglao Water Services, Inc.
Questions were also raised over the corporate relationship between Abejo Waters Corporation and Panglao Water Services Inc., both perceived to have the blessings of the LGU to provide water to the growing population of the premiere tourist destination in Bohol.
With the expected boom of the local tourist industry and the expected completion of an international airport, the LGU is in a mad rush to alleviate an alarming lack of water supply temporarily addressed by water delivery from huge water delivery trucks owned by known political rivals of Mayor Leonila Montero.
The present administration is in the midst of the repair overhaul of municipal water pumps, identifying new sources of water within the municipality and replacement of old water pipes.
Miffed by the sudden rush to drill by personnel identified with Panglao Water Resources, residents of Barangay Looc deplored the unauthorized activities despite the absence of an NWRB water permit and the approval of the barangay council.
TheÂ ChronicleÂ learned that Looc Barangay Head Reginaldo Guioguio complained to the Sangguniang Bayan of Panglao about the mysterious digging activities that reached the local DILG office.
The Barangay Looc resolution cited a Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) survey warning the LGU of Panglao that with the presence of several sinkholes in the island, unregulated underground water extraction would lead to the sinking or subsidence of the land surface.
In Brgy. Danao, Kagawad Patricio Arcay expressed his concern thru an SB Resolution that with the Municipal Waterworks extracting underground water to supply several barangays, the added commercial extraction might cause the drying up of existing deep wells.
The SB Resolution adopted by Barangay Tawala and Bil-isan raised ugly fears of land subsidence where half of their barangay’s surface is composed of limestone and over extraction of ground water thru drilling is a common cause of “cover collapse or carbonate dissolution”.
Barangay Bolod stressed that they welcome the entry of water related business but “we don’t allow ground water extraction in our municipality”.
The choice of a private entity to own and manage the aging water system of the municipality has met stiff resistance from residents despite the presence of two Â water distributors – the municipal waterworks and Balibago Waters.
Abejo Waters entered into a memorandum of agreement with the LGU of Panglao on August 28, 2013 to develop, finance, design, engineer, test, commission, own, operate, manage and maintain, at its own cost, a water distribution system in Panglao.
However, even before Abejo Waters could start initial construction works, Panglao Water Services, Inc, a SEC registered corporation was set up on April 16, 2015 to develop, manage and operate a level 3 water supply system in the municipality of Panglao.
Questions were raised by several residents of the barangays over the corporate relationship of Abejo Waters Corporation, who owns the majority shares of Panglao Water Services, Inc.
According to Municipal Councilor Rogelin Degoma, the corporate address of both companies is a lot in Barangay Danao reportedly owned by Montero.
The DILG also rebuked the SB for allowing Abejo Waters to develop the water system by tapping into the barangays fragile aquifers instead of bringing in water from outside sources.
As borne in the minutes of the August 26, 2015 SB session, Municipal Local Government Operations Officer Victor Lapiz chided the SB members “Just like sa Abejo, nagkapandol-pandol intawn mi didto to block Abejo kay mag dig sila sa duol sa atong reservoir”
Lapiz told the SP “My apprehension is that the race to pump water between Abejo and our own waterworks on the same water table will result in salt intrusion.
Amid severe water shortages, the five barangays in Panglao rejected moves of a water company to dig new wells in their localities but instead opted to preserve their existing wells which has been their decades old source of water.Â (Chito M. Visarra)