Cagayan de Oro City

Marcos tells LWUA: Consider takeover amid Cagayan de Oro water crisis

Franck Dick Rosete

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Marcos tells LWUA: Consider takeover amid Cagayan de Oro water crisis

INTERVIEW. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. answers reporters' questions during his Cagayan de Oro visit on Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Franck Rosete/Rappler

President Marcos says business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan has agreed to meet with Cagayan de Oro's mayor and discuss his firm's dispute with the local water district

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. directed the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) on Thursday, May 16, to explore the possibility of it taking over the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) amid its ongoing dispute with its primary supplier.

Marcos made this announcement during his visit to Cagayan de Oro, where he pledged financial aid to over 13,000 farmers, fisherfolk, and families grappling with the impacts of the El Niño phenomenon.

He said LWUA’s intervention could expedite a resolution to the water supply issue, facilitating the determination of appropriate water rates and ensuring the water district fulfills its obligations to consumers and suppliers.

Marcos said he also engaged with business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, owner of Metro Pacific Water, which controls the Cagayan de Oro Bulk Water Incorporated (COBI), the COWD’s primary bulk water supplier. 

He said he sought Pangilinan’s cooperation in restoring normal water supply while the government pursues a long-term solution to the problem.

“Payag po si Mr. Pangilinan sa ating pakiusap at handa po siya makigpulong sa inyong alkalde upang matuldokan na ang suliraning ito,” he announced.

(Mr. Pangilinan has agreed to our request and is prepared to meet with your mayor to address this matter.)

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Rolando Uy declared a state of emergency on May 1, in hopes of preempting a water shortage as a result of the COWD-COBI dispute. 

Uy’s declaration, outlined in Executive Order No. 196-2024 and endorsed by the city council, empowers local authorities to utilize police resources to mitigate a water crisis. As part of these measures, police personnel were deployed to water facilities to safeguard valves and prevent any tampering.

COBI, providing approximately 80,000 cubic meters of treated water to COWD daily, has been exerting pressure on the water district to settle a debt exceeding P400 million. The disputed debt, which the COWD refused to acknowledge, primarily comprises the accumulated price difference since COBI raised its water rates in 2021.

On Tuesday, May 14, however, COBI cut off its supply to the water district. The COWD confirmed the disruption, attributing it to the unresolved debt issue with COBI. 

The disconnection affected nearly half of the treated water distributed by the COWD in the city.

Late on Tuesday, a regional court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop COBI from terminating its supply to COWD.

Despite the legal intervention, COBI stated on Wednesday, May 15, that it had yet to receive a copy of the court order. Its lawyer also said that even if it had received the order, it would be inconsequential as it had already ceased supplying treated water to COWD on Tuesday morning. –

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