Representatives of Richli Corporation, a Boholano-owned water provider, appeared before the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) during a regular session and clarified its legal right to provide potable water to residents of Tagbilaran City.
Elmer Lim, Vice President for Communications of Richli, speaking in behalf of Richard E. Lim, Chairman of the Board that they have been granted water permit no. 024274 issued on October 26, 2017, by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB).
The first large-scale surface water project in the province will source its water supply from Malingin River in Patrocinio, Cortes allowing Richli the right to draw up to 60 million liters a day (MLD) assuring its consumers a reliable source of potable water.
An initial 10 MLD is now available to serve 20,000 households in Dauis, Panglao and neighboring towns with Tagbilaran City allocated 4 MLD, according to Lim.
According to Engr. Rei Bernardo, Richli Consultant for water supply, with the approval of its Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) which represents the right and authority to operate its water facilities for public service, an initial ninety kilometers of main pipes and distribution lines for phase 1 will be laid for the needs of the potential consumers of Tagbilaran City, Dauis and Panglao.
PROCEDURAL AND LEGAL ISSUES
Tagbilaran City Councilor Adam Relson Jala requested Richli Corporation to clarify issues relating to its plan to augment the water supply of the city as the SP maintained that it should be threshed out with the city council before the implementation of the wholesale or bulk water and distribution supply scheme that would benefit more than 105,000 city residents.
The SP stressed that they have no objection to the plan of Richli Corporation to supply the city residents with potable water sourced from Malingin River in Patrocinio, Cortes.
The council also pointed out a provision from the Code of Administrative Ordinances of the City of Tagbilaran that water providers should secure a water franchise from the city government before they could operate their water system.
Councilor Vicente Polinar also raised the question of the position of Richli Corporation with regards to a proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) which he crafted as an alternative agreement with provisions acceptable to both parties.
Engineer Peter Busano, Head of the Tagbilaran City Waterworks System expressed no objection with the entry of Richli Corporation admitting the lack of supply and quality of water confronting the operations of the city water system.
According to Busano, the city residents will have a choice of three water providers – City Waterworks, BWUI, and Richli although the water rates of Richli will cost the consumers more than the rates of the two present providers due to its superior quality and technology.
However, City Engineer Teodoro Estoque is considering the suspension of digging, excavation and laying of Richli”s water pipes along the city-owned streets pending resolution of issues raised by the SP even as City Mayor John Geesnell “Baba” Yap granted digging and business permits to the corporation.
Lim also told the SP on March 1, 2019, that the ongoing digging, excavation and laying of water pipes along city roads are covered by an excavation permit issued by the City Engineer’s Office and a business permit to distribute water in areas under the Tagbilaran City Waterworks and the Bohol Water Utilities Incorporated (BWUI).
According to Lim, the digging, excavation and laying of water pipes are now in progress in the barangays of Cabawan, Bool, Mansasa and San Isidro that will eventually include the 11 city barangays.
Lim also informed the SP that the Department of Public Works and Highways 1st Engineering District has granted Richli digging permits along J.A. Clarin St. and the city’s main thoroughfare CPG Avenue.
Richli is offering the city Php 0.25 centavos per cubic meter share in the revenue which is approximately Php2 million per year through a bulk water arrangement.
Richard E. Lim, Richli Corporation Chairman of the Board wrote Vice Mayor Jose Veloso on February 28, 2019, that Mayor Yap allowed Richli to directly sell water to the city residents to forestall any potential shortfall in the water supply.
A Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Opinion No, 18 series of 2018 was submitted for reference by Richli to the SP whereby the DILG clearly stressed that the granting of water permits is within the competence of the NWRB.
According to the DILG opinion citing Presidential Decree (PD) 1076 known as the Water Code of the Philippines, the participation of local government units is merely in the processing, posting and sending of notices of applications/petitions.
But some members of the SB expressed surprise when Richli informed them about the NWRB permits when no notices of applications or petitions were received from the NWRB as stated in the provisions of PD 1076.
A text message from Richli Engr. Bernardo to the Chronicle stated that “Per our lawyer, only the NWRB and the court can stop us from selling water. Richli has been issued aby NWRB its franchise. Only NWRB is the entity who has jurisdiction on selling water.”
Bohol Water, the main provider of water in Tagbilaran City did not send a representative to the SB session even as a letter was transmitted to Richli to discuss issues relating to their pipe laying activities and other concerns over operation related issues. (Chito M. Visarra)