NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is set to pursue its controversial water facility supply project in the town of Balilihan, but first, the agency will have to retrieve and restore the submersible pumps and intake structures that were seized by its neighboring local government of Sevilla.
To recall, the Balilihan Water Supply System Project which involves the development of its source, Bugwak Spring in Barangay Magsaysay, Sevilla, and the construction of a pumping system, water reservoir and pipe networks, had been stopped following the conflict between the local governments of Balilihan and Sevilla over water rights of the spring.
According to the DPWH 1st District Engineering Office (DPWH-1), the dismantling and removal of the facilities which they had installed at Bugwak Spring by LGU-Sevilla has hindered the project’s completion.
During the past months, DPWH-1 has sought the assistance of the Provincial Government of Bohol and even brought the matter to the Solicitor General to take legal action against LGU-Sevilla.
DPWH-1 District Engineer John Paul Gascon explained that their agency is legally bound to complete the project as its discontinuance will result in the undue wastage public funds and budget for the purpose will be reverted back to national coffers.
The district engineer added that the removal and dismantling of the water supply facilities is considered unwarranted destruction of government property.
It may be recalled that the DPWH, with the assistance of the provincial government, requested LGU-Sevilla to return the dismantled submersible pump, water intake facilities and electrical cables and restore the equipment to its original and operational state.
However, despite several follow-up letters the municipality of Sevilla continues to disregard the DPWH request adding that the LGU has not even taken steps for its return.
Short of threatening legal action, in one of its letters, the DPWH informed Sevilla Mayor Juliet Dano that the agency is coordinating with the Office of the Solicitor General regarding the matter.
Aside from the destruction of government property and the wastage of public funds, the DPWH also cites the need to complete the project to serve the needs of the people of Balilihan for an efficient and reliable supply of potable water.
The DPWH said that the construction and installation of the intake structures, submersible pumps and electrical cables was funded through the 2020 General Appropriations and had additional funding in the 2023 national budget to undertake the project’s succeeding phases and its eventual completion.
According to the DPWH-1, they were supposed to commence the construction and installation of the filtration system when the intake facilities were dismantled and seized by LGU Sevilla.
The conflict between the two LGUs arose when Balilihan applied for a water permit before the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) at Bugwak Spring without informing LGU Sevilla where the water source is geographically situated, which LGU Balilihan likewise refuses to recognize.