A contentious excavation permit involving an initial 700-meter long canal for the laying of 2 inches in diameter distribution water pipes was finally released by the Office of the Governor on Friday, September 27, 2019, after it was approved by Governor Arthur C, Yap on September 3, 2019.
The permit to excavate/install water pipes along/across the Tiguis – Calvario (Lila) – Cambance (Loboc) provincial road was granted to Loctob Water Incorporated (LWI)/Engr. Alvin Santiago with address at 12 Palma St., Tagbilaran City,
The initial 700 meters of water pipes will start in Barangay Sawang Loboc to Barangay Alegria, Loboc – a distance of less than 1 kilometer and will benefit some 586 residents considered a missionary route.
The delay in the release of the excavation permit and the filing of the complaint before the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) does not bode well to the image of Bohol as an investment-friendly province considering that President Rodrigo Duterte has recently campaigned for investors to look into business opportunities in Bohol and Cebu.
The alleged delay in the release of the excavation permit reached the ARTA, Office of the President on September 11 and 23, 2019 and requested Yap to respond with supporting documents within 24 hours from receipt of the complaint.
The 1st endorsement letter was signed by ARTA Deputy Director-General Ernesto V. Perez, CPA with complaint ticket no. 201909953.
Yap told the Chronicle that he has yet to receive the complaint and will air his side on the reason behind the delay of the release of the excavation permit.
As Deputy Speaker and chair of the House of Representatives Committee on EconomicAffairs, Yap, a three-term 3rd District congressman, knows whereof he speaks since he was instrumental as the main author of Republic Act (RA) 11032 otherwise known as the “Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018”
ARTA, created under RA 11032 initiates motu propio (on its own) or upon receipt of a complaint, file necessary cases with the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Ombudsman and other appropriate courts, as the case may be.
Just last month, ARTA called on all Local Government Units (LGU) particularly the Local Chief Executives to comply with the provisions of RA 11032.
Under RA 11032 processing time for simple, complex and requests that pose danger to public health, safety, morals, highly technical issues shall not be longer than 3, 7, and 20 working days respectively.
Zero contact policy shall also be observed wherein interactions with applicants should be limited to preliminary assessment and the use of electronic communications encouraged whenever practicable.
But Yap attributed the alleged delay on the overly meticulous manner documents are scrutinized by his staff.
“I admonished my staff to balance the need for documentary requirements over the quality of our services which should be client-friendly.’
Despite waiting for 70 days for the approval of the permit, LWI, majority-owned by Richli Corporation, a 100% Boholano service water provider welcomed the release of the excavation permit as this will jumpstart the long-delayed P300 million phase 1 of the transmission line and distribution system covering the towns of Loboc, Loay and Alburquerque.
Richli has an ongoing P1.5 billion water project under a P540 million credit facility from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) with an additional P500 million now subject for evaluation, according to Ralph Miguel B. Lim, President of Richli and LWI.
LONG WAITING TIME
Yap during a chance interview on Tuesday, September 24 said that the release of the excavation permit was recalled due to questions raised over the corporate relationship between LWI and Richli Corp. that surfaced when Lim informed him on September 9 that the water company “was recently acquired by Richli Corporation.”
A letter-complaint attached to the ARTA request to Yap bore the letterhead of Carpio and Duterte Lawyers, the counsel of LWI and Richli and was signed by Atty. Elijah Manuel Z. Pepito, Legal Counsel.
Pepito laid out a timeline that started as early as June 20, 2019 during the Chatto administration requesting for an excavation permit from Provincial Engineer Carmelo Gasatan which was endorsed to Yap eight days after he took office.
During the Chatto administration, Richli was granted an excavation permit covering 5 kilometers of 5,000 high-density polyethylene (HDPE) 400- millimeter water pipes starting in the project site located in Purok 2, Barangay Patrocinio, Cortes snaking its way to parts of Balilihan, Tagbilaran City
Based on the guidelines for the issuance of a permit to excavate along or across provincial roads issued on August 3, 2006, and approved by the late Governor Erico B, Aumentado, an assessment, and endorsement were submitted by Gasatan to the Governor for approval.
According to the complaint, a follow-up was made on August 5, 2019 and the application was snagged due to the numerous legal questions raised and additional requirements were requested by the Office of the Governor.
The unusual delay led to a resolution from the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Alburquerque requesting Yap to facilitate the issuance of the excavation permit in favor of LWI during their regular session on September 9, 2019.
Top officials of Alburquerque have expressed a keen interest to avail of a bulk water supply arrangement with LWI to solve its decade long water problem plaguing their 11 barangays.
POTABLE AND SUSTAINABLE
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), REGION VII approved the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of LWInc.for the Loctob Bulk Water Supply Project on April 29, 2019.
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.
LWI, Zigmund Ng was granted a Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) No. 15-1118 by the National Water Resource Board (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 one of the former owners of LWI and the holder of the original water rights of Loctob Spring.before it was acquired by Richli.
Richli is the only water provider in the province that hues to the Provincial Government’s water policy to source its supply from surface water even as several major suppliers continue to rely on groundwater supply. (Chito M, Visarra)