Cagayan de Oro City

Pangilinan group, water district agree to meet, avert Cagayan de Oro crisis

Franck Dick Rosete

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Pangilinan group, water district agree to meet, avert Cagayan de Oro crisis

WATER. A man fetches water from a water tanker sent by city hall during a recent water interruption in Barangay Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro.

Cagayan de Oro City Information Office

The bulk water supplier apologizes and clarifies that their demand letters to the Cagayan de Oro Water District were not intended to alarm the city

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Executives of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) and Cagayan de Oro Bulk Water Incorporated (COBI), a subsidiary controlled by business magnate Manny V. Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, have reached an agreement to explore a potential resolution of their ongoing dispute concerning a debt surpassing P400 million, accrued since 2021.

The Cagayan de Oro Bulk Water Incorporated (COBI) clarified that a decision on whether they will discontinue the water supply has not yet been made, as it still wants to settle the issue they are facing with the government-run Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD).

Engineer Antonio Young, COWD general manager, told Rappler on Thursday, March 14, that they received a communication from COBI a day earlier, and responded that water district officials were willing to discuss the matter with the bulk water supplier on March 20.

“By that time, before their deadline, [we hope] that we could come up with an agreement,” Young said.

COBI earlier sent notices of disconnection to the COWD and warned that it would be forced to discontinue its supply of treated water to the water district unless it paid a P426-million debt.

The COWD has not acknowledged the debt, saying the amount represented an increase in rates implemented by COBI during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, despite the water district invoking a force majeure provision in their 2017 contract.

Young said the COWD, a government-owned and -controlled corporation, has no legal basis to pay COBI more than their agreed pre-pandemic rates. 

He said COBI’s recent gesture and COWD’s response offered a chance for them to negotiate for the continuation of the supply of treated water to the water district. COBI supplies COWD 80,000 cubic meters daily, accounting for around half of Cagayan de Oro’s tap water.

COBI’s lawyer, Roberto Rodrigo, told a city hall committee on Wednesday, March 13, that they sent a letter to COWD, to ask for a meeting so that the two firms could come to terms.

Rodrigo also apologized before the city hall committee under the Cagayan de Oro Special Task Force for Water Supply and Distribution, for their notices to COWD that caused alarm in the city.

“We did not intend to cause fright among the people. We want to settle this amicably with the water district,” said Rodrigo, adding that they have been trying to resolve the issue for over a year already.

Councilors Edgar Cabanlas and Suzette Magtajas-Daba asked the supplier if they could extend the deadline, for starters, to two months to allow the city to prepare if COBI decided to stop supplying treated water to the COWD. Cabanlas earlier dared COBI to cut off its supply to the COWD.

Rodrigo said he would bring the request to the attention of COBI’s decision-makers. –

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