Cagayan de Oro City

Confused Cagayan de Oro water firm workers seek OGCC direction amid LWUA control

Franck Dick Rosete

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Confused Cagayan de Oro water firm workers seek OGCC direction amid LWUA control

PICKET. Members of the First Labor Organization of the Cagayan de Oro Water District hold a picket outside their workplace on Tuesday, July 2, 2024.

Franck Dick Rosete/Rappler

Feeling the heat, the workers' union of the Cagayan de Oro Water District holds daily pickets to draw the national government's attention to their situation

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Organized workers at the troubled Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) have appealed to the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) to expedite a legal opinion on the contentious takeover by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), which followed a supply crisis stemming from an unresolved debt dispute between the firm and its primary supplier of treated water.

Jofran Doromal, acting president of the First Labor Organization of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (FLOW), said the COWD’s workers were feeling the heat, and the OGCC opinion would provide clarity on their stance amid the management changes. 

“Sa pagkakaron man gud, confused gyud kay mi, worried mi. Naa gani panahon among mga kauban sa opisina gakabalaka kay basin daw in the future, aha daw mi magkuha og sweldo kay duha naman ang signatories, duha na ang ga-direct sa amoa,” Doromal said on Tuesday, July 2. 

(As of now, we are very confused and worried. There were times our colleagues were concerned about where we would get our salaries in the future, as there are now two signatories and two directing us.)

The concern, he said, is why COWD workers have been holding daily pickets outside the water district during lunch breaks to draw the national government’s attention to their appeal.

The COWD is currently managed by an interim board and general manager appointed by the LWUA, which took over the water district on May 29 due to its ongoing corporate dispute with the Manny V. Pangilinan-controlled Cagayan de Oro Bulk Water Incorporated (COBI) and due to the water district’s high non-revenue water (NRW). 

The interim officers were initially given six months to complete their tasks, although the LWUA said their appointments can be extended.

Engineer Antonio Young, the sidelined COWD general manager, and three others, had asked a regional court to prohibit the LWUA takeover and issue a status quo ante order. The court, treating it as a petition for a temporary restraining order, dismissed their plea.

According to Fermin Jarales, COWD’s interim general manager, it was the OGCC which provided LWUA legal assistance to answer the petition filed by Young and three sidelined COWD directors.

On May 30, Young wrote to the OGCC requesting an opinion about the LWUA takeover, but more than a month later, the OGCC has yet to respond. 

Doromal said the COWD labor union also sent the OGCC and Civil Service Commission (CSC) letters so the water district’s workers would be guided. He said they were told that only the courts could decide on it.

“Ang OGCC among ginahulatan kay mao na ang legal basis namo. Kung amo pa bang ginabuhat karon sakto pa ba o dili na,” Doromal said, expressing their concern about the risks associated with their actions. 

(We are waiting for the OGCC’s opinion because that will be our legal basis to determine if what we are doing now is still right or not.)

Jarales, for his part, said he would bring the workers’ concerns to the attention of the national government, while continuing to collaborate with them, and explaining the reasons for their actions to the employees. –

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