Hopes were held high for the 10,450 water-starved residents of Alburquerque less than three months after Loctob Water Incorporated (LWI)/Ritchli Corporation, a 100 percent Boholano water service provider, offered a potable bulk water supply proposal to serve its eleven barangays.
However, ripples of disappointment have started to stir the expectations of a growing number of residents including its top municipal officials after the paperwork for the completion of requirements for the much-awaited water project is stalled at the Office of the Governor.
The Chronicle is still awaiting the reply of Governor Art Yap to shed light of the alleged delay in the approval of the excavation permit which has caused undue alarm to the LGU of Alburquerque and LWI/Richli.
But sources in the Governor’s office told the Chronicle that Yap has affixed his signature in the excavation permit but was put on hold pending the submission of an undertaking delineating the accountability of LWI and Richli in the event liabilities will arise during the project implementation.
Even Ralph Miguel Lim President of both LWI/Richli Corp. in a letter to Governor Arthur Yap dated September 9, 2019, expressed his dismay over the undue delay in the approval of the excavation permit which “most importantly, it is the beneficiaries, or your constituents, who are left to suffer due to the poor water conditions in their towns.”
Took the cudgels
The Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Alburquerque, in an apparent move to stress the importance of the proposed water project to the municipality, passed Resolution No. 150 series of 2019 requesting Governor Arthur Yap to facilitate the issuance of an excavation permit in favor of LWI relative to their proposed water project in the selected municipalities of the Province of Bohol.
SB Resolution No.150 referred to the laying of 700 meters of water pipes along Barangay Poblacion Sawang to Barangay Alegria, Loboc – a distance of less than 1 kilometer that will jumpstart the water interconnection.
The SB made known to Yap that Alburquerque is “intent to avail of the offer of Loctob Water and to “intercede” on their behalf to “fast track the issuance of an excavation permit so they could now start the implementation of their project.”
The resolution further stated that “it is of the belief that realization of the project of Loctob Water/Richli Corporation will eventually solve the water problem in the municipality.”
A parallel Resolution No. 149 series of 2019 also authorized Alburquerque Mayor Don Ritchie P. Buates to conduct competitive bidding among the interested bidders with the winning bidder supplying safe and potable water especially to the hinterland barangays.
Almost half of the population – 5307 living in the hinterland barangays of Cantiguib, Toril, Dangay – site of the sanitary landfill, Punong and parts of West Poblacion and Tagbuane are in dire need of potable water which they have been craving for several decades.
Phase 1 of the Loboc – Alburquerque P300 million water interconnection project covers the installation of a 4 million liters a day P27.438 million modular water treatment facility in Loctob Spring, excavation and laying of water pipes from the source to Poblacion Sawang passing to an elevated portion of Alegria and winding down to the municipality of Loay ending in Alburquerque – 14 kilometers from Loboc.
The route of the water supply will ease the water problem of Alegria, Loboc, a barangay with a population of 586. Although considered a “missionary route”, LWI/Richli Corp.is pioneering this project as part of its corporate social responsibility.
Missionary route refers to service routes that have little or no service due to geographic limitation or absence of market viability.
Invoking Republic Act No. 11032 known as the “Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, Lim reminded Yap that “under the law, permits must be approved and released in three (3) to twenty (20) days.”
Ironically, Yap, as chair of the House Committee on Economic Affairs successfully pushed for the approval of RA No. 11032 and signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on May 28, 2018.
As principal author Yap said that “with the new law, government agencies and units will be required to act on all applications for permits, licenses, and authorizations within a given period of time or else, the erring officials will be sanctioned not only administratively but criminally as well,” according to a June 3, 2018 issue of the Bohol Chronicle.
In his letter to Yap dated September 9, 2019, Lim deplored the expenses incurred “day by day because of the project’s delay and our investors and suppliers are growing impatient with us.”
The Chronicle learned that despite complying with all the requirements from the national government agencies – the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Loctob Water representatives increasingly found themselves mired in endless paper-pushing from Provincial Government functionaries.
According to sources from Loctob Water Inc., their ordeal started as early as July 27, 2019, when Richard E. Lim, Chairman of the Board of Loctob Water Inc/Richli Corporation wrote Yap asking about the status of the recommending approval of the excavation permit computation from the Provincial Engineer’s Office (PEO).
However, Loctob Water was made to pay P2,259.00 excavation fee by the PEO as per official receipt no. 7081155 dated August 14, 2019.
Elmer Lim, Vice President for Communications of LWI/Richli Corp. told the Chronicle that all their letters to the Provincial Government remained unanswered.
According to Elmer Lim, another undertaking is required for submission to the Office of the Governor to clarify whatever liabilities the project will incur during its implementation.
Richli Corporation is the majority stockholder of LWI whose president Ernesto Lapez struck a deal with Richli to develop Loctob Spring
LWI, Zigmund Ng was granted a Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) No. 15-1118 by the NWRB on November 26, 2018, for the installation, operation, and maintenance of a water system in the municipalities of Loboc, Sikatuna, Loay, Alburquerque, Baclayon, Dauis, Tagbilaran, Panglao, and Corella.
Ng was granted a conditional water permit on November 7, 2016, and a Permanent Water Permit on November 2, 2017, to draw surface water from Loctob Spring.
After the grant of the NWRB water permits, Loctob Water Inc. was formed to undertake its water projects with Ernesto Lapez as President and Ng as member of the board.
However, Ng, in the interest of growth and progress assigned his water permit in favor of Richli Corp. on June 29, 2017, now the majority stockholder of LWI
The NWRB granted a water permit to LWI. Sigmund Ng to diverting in liters/second by means of intake box not exceeding 60.00 liters/second.
NWRB ordered that the previous water permit granted to Ng was superseded by the water permit issued to LWI/Richli Corp.
A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was also signed between Barangay Gotozon, Loboc represented by Barangay Captain Leonilo Oculam and LWI Director Edmund Castillo for the establishment of a water treatment facility in the barangay.
It may be recalled that as recently as the last quarter of 2017 – Bohol was named “The Best Business-Friendly Province’ in the nation during the 43rd Annual Business Conference of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Manila Hotel. President Rodrigo Duterte helped confer the award to Bohol in front of its officialdom. (Chito M. Visarra)