Proposal to turn De Oro water district into co-op revived

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/31 May) — The recent proposal of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) for a 30% increase in water rates has revived the campaign to turn the public facility into a cooperative.

Councilor Alden Bacal, committee on public utilities chair, told MindaNews Tuesday that the increase COWD is asking is “too much.”

Bacal said his committee has yet to issue a resolution since COWD has not submitted its report on the series of public hearings it has conducted.

“They’re asking too much considering they (COWD) have filed a separate request for increase in rates with its contracted supplier (Rio Verde Water Consortium Incorporated). We cannot even draft a resolution yet because they haven’t submitted their report on what happened in the three public hearings they have conducted around the city,” he said.

Bacal said the COWD can “technically, implement (the increase) but they have to consider that they are operating here in the city.”

“We will fight this increase. We will be forced to intervene since water is a very basic service. I’m not against turning the water district into a cooperative,” he said.

Bacal cited the experience of Meralco’s 12% increase which was already approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) but was scrapped after the Supreme Court ruled against the increase.

In a separate interview Tuesday, Councilor Ian Mark Nacaya, committee on environment and natural resources agreed with Bacal and proposed that talks of converting the water facility into a cooperative be revived and studied again.

“If (this) GOCC (government owned and controlled corporation) cannot handle the facility, let the people handle this through cooperativism,” said Nacaya.

“If that becomes a cooperative, then there will be patronage refunds and dividends for its member-owners,” he said.

Nacaya, however, enumerated certain conditions should the water facility be turned into a cooperative: the leadership of the board and competent employees should be retained.

For now, I still think the leadership of the board is still effective. We should revive the discussion on the proposal to turn COWD into a cooperative,” said Nacaya.

Kristine Lim,  spokesperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Northern Mindanao Region (BAYAN-NMR)  said they anticipate the proposed increase because COWD continues to operate  with a private entity. “We support the call of FLOW (First Labor Union of Water District Employees) that Cagayan de Oro LGU should give more budget to strengthen and provide accessible, affordable safe water to the people.”

BAYAN-NMR actively supported FLOW’s labor issues campaign last year.

“If they were able to find budget for the beautification of the City Hall and other infrastructure projects, they should do so with this very basic service,” Lim said. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)