Cagayan de Oro City

Court freezes water cutoff by Pangilinan group in Cagayan de Oro for 3 days

Franck Dick Rosete

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Court freezes water cutoff by Pangilinan group in Cagayan de Oro for 3 days

RATION. Residents affected by water supply disconnection in a Cagayan de Oro neighborhood queue up to collect rationed water provided by the group Oro Rescue.

Cagayan de Oro City Information Office

The bulk water supplier points out that it cannot disconnect what has already been disconnected

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – A regional court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) late on Tuesday, May 14, to prevent a bulk water supplier from cutting off its supply to the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) for three days due to a disputed debt of over P400 million.

However, the supplier, Cagayan de Oro Bulk Water Incorporated (COBI), said on Wednesday, May 15, that it has not yet received a copy of the court order. 

COBI, a company owned by business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Water, also argued that even if it had, there would be nothing to cut off, as it had already discontinued the supply of treated water to the COWD on Tuesday morning.

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In a three-page decision, Judge Ana Candida Casino of the 17th branch of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Misamis Oriental, ordered Metro Pacific, COBI and its subcontractor, Rio Verde Water Consortium Incorporated, to cease disconnecting the water supply and distribution to the COWD.

The TRO will be in effect for 72 hours from its issuance, according to COWD legal counsel Angeli Avenido. During the period, she said the respondents should comply with the TRO ahead of a court hearing.

“In that proper hearing, we will pray for our main action, which is the injunction. In that injunction, there is a permanent injunction wherein Rio Verde would be permanently barred from disconnecting the supply, as this is merely a contractual dispute,” Avenido said.

The COWD said it would resort to emergency purchase orders from other bulk water suppliers in the event that the court rejected the petition for a permanent injunction.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, COBI said the main supply valves for both the east and west pipelines leading to the water district’s distribution had been closed. 

COBI said it made every effort to reach an amicable resolution with the COWD but was forced to temporarily cut water services until the dispute is resolved.

It said COWD has not provided a clear response regarding its disputed outstanding payables to COBI, including the balance for the March 2024 bulk water bill. The firm said the payments were essential for its continued operation in the city.

Lawyer Roberto Rodrigo, Metro Pacific Water senior legal counsel, said COBI remains committed to working with COWD to find a swift solution.

 “We have to study the TRO and circumstances on how it was issued. If it calls for legal action, so be it,” Rodrigo said.

The water supply from COBI accounts for nearly half of the COWD’s tap water supply in Cagayan de Oro.

COBI has been the primary bulk supplier for the COWD since 2018, but the Pangilinan-controlled firm buys treated water from Rio Verde, a company owned by former Palawan governor and now Representative Jose Alvarez.

Rio Verde was the COWD’s previous bulk water supplier until a court voided their 2007 contract and the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged their transactions and disallowed their financial dealings.

Negotiations between COWD and COBI about a disputed P479-million debt, primarily stemming from price adjustments made in 2021 and early this year, reached a stalemate. 

The COWD has refused to acknowledge the COBI rate increases, invoking a force majeure clause in their 2017 contract, citing the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The contract, now being questioned by COWD and city hall, allows rate adjustments every three years.

Engineer Antonio Young, COWD general manager, filed the petition for a TRO slash writ of preliminary injunction after he was notified by COBI about the supply disconnection at around 12:30 pm on Tuesday, over two hours after the supply was cut off. Rodrigo confirmed that COBI stopped the supply at around 10 am on Tuesday.

The disconnection immediately affected the water supply in at least 13 villages in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental. –

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