Cagayan de Oro City

Court issues injunction to protect Cagayan de Oro water supply amid debt row

Franck Dick Rosete

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Court issues injunction to protect Cagayan de Oro water supply amid debt row

Judge also orders the Cagayan de Oro Water District to put up a P20-million injunction bond in case of damage claims as a result of the court injunction

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – A regional court issued a writ of preliminary injunction on Monday, June 3, against business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan’s Cagayan de Oro Bulk Water Incorporated (COBI). The order prohibits the company from taking any action that could jeopardize the city’s water supply.

The order, issued by Judge Jeoffre Acebido of the 41st branch of the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental, came less than a month after COBI briefly ceased supplying to the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD), causing a water shortage in more than a dozen villages in the city and parts of Misamis Oriental. COBI subsequently resumed its supply to the COWD.

At the same time, the court also ordered the COWD to put up a P20-million injunction bond to cover damages that may be suffered by the respondents as a result of the court order.

The temporary disconnection on May 14, which lasted for a few days, resulted from a deadlock in negotiations between COWD and COBI over a disputed debt, which had already ballooned to P479 million at that time. COWD has refused to acknowledge the debt, which represents the difference in the rate increase implemented by COBI at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.

COBI, a company controlled by Pangilinan’s Metropac Water Investments Corporation (MWIC), supplies nearly half of the treated water distributed by COWD in the city.

Aside from Metro Pacific and COBI, Acebido also ordered Rio Verde Water Consortium Incorporated, COBI’s sub-contractor, to maintain the status quo and refrain from any actions that could result in the interruption or disconnection of the water supply to COWD while the water district and its primary supplier work to reach a settlement.

June 3 marked the final day of the extension of the temporary restraining order (TRO) that was initially issued on May 14.

In the 13-page decision, the court stated that it found sufficient grounds to grant the writ of preliminary injunction, emphasizing that the local water district plays an essential role in providing water supply and that COBI’s disconnection would affect thousands of consumers in the city.

The court also cited articles of the United Nations International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (UN-ICESCR), to which the Philippines is a signatory, stating that “the right to water is a fundamental human right that must be protected.”

The court’s decision, stemming from a petition filed by former Cagayan de Oro councilor Enrico Salcedo and Ronnie Waniwan, host of a city hall-sponsored radio program, was met with relief by local officials and residents, who have been concerned about potential disruptions to their water service similar to those that occurred in May.

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Rolando Uy hailed the court injunction, saying it was an important step in safeguarding the city’s water supply and protecting the interests of consumers. City hall served as a petitioner-intervenor in the case.

The dispute, which resulted in a city-wide water crisis, prompted the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to take over COWD last week on orders from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. –

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