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ROUGH CUTS | The expanding DCWD issue

NOW some other opinion makers from the media are joining us in the public discourse on the present water service situation of the Davao City Water District (DCWD).  Most, if not all, are either defending the water firm or directly explaining why things are not quite well in the agency’s service level.

     And for the first time ever, it was on their defense/explanation that we learned of some members of the Davao City Council showing their interest in pushing for the privatization of the water agency.  As can be recalled, some years back, the DCWD was operating like it was a private corporation. It is, in fact, why its employees and officials envy those working in the local government because they have been receiving higher salary rates plus benefits provided for in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) forged between the employees’ union and the DCWD management. The employees’ government-mandated insurance was with the Social Security System or SSS.

     Later, however, a question that was raised to determine the DCWD’s real juridical status reached up to the Supreme Court. The final answer was that the DCWD is a quasi-government agency. That was when some changes happened in the organization, one of which was the employees’ work insurance coverage’s transfer to the state-own Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) from the SSS. Also, being based in Davao City and doing business here makes the DCWD obligated to give the city a certain percentage of its income as the former’s share, although we heard that it is done on some kind of a “dacion en pago” arrangement with the city’s monthly water bill. How true, as we said, we only heard about it from certain reliable sources, at least to us.

     As most Davao City residents have noticed in the past few weeks, the water firm’s services appeared to be deteriorating substantially despite the start of its billing using the increased water rates. And this is the situation that leads to numerous complaints by residents residing in almost all sectors of the country’s largest city by land area.

     And suppose we believe what some of our media friends are writing about the so-called members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod “salivating” for offers of privatizing the water distribution business of the city. In that case, we now know that some local legislators are already aware of the situation. 

     However, if they are indeed pushing for privatization of the DCWD, we are not totally in accord with them. What we are advocating is for the DCWD to fast-track its partnership project for the supply of bulk surface water to augment its source for distribution to areas known to be inadequately or hardly supplied, mostly in the city’s northern sector. 

     Another scheme that we are pushing to solve the problem is to split the concession area into two and have the city delineate the coverage of DCWD and let go of the other to a new concessionaire. And if this would mean that the “chipped out” area is to be given to a private corporate concessionaire, so be it.

     To us, and perhaps to the majority of Davaoenos, what is important is the DCWD can satisfactorily deliver the desired volume of water to its consumers at any given time. After all, that is what they are paying for.

     Nonetheless, we do not totally see the service situation of DCWD as hopeless. Of the two options, we recommend without being solicited, we are still strongly favoring a one-DCWD water concession coverage from south to north of the city.

     However, we strongly encourage the DCWD, and perhaps with the backing of the local government, to exert enough pressure to have its partnership agreement for the bulk water supply project completed as soon as possible. From our recollection, there were several instances of pronouncement to that effect that by this year, the project will have already been partially operational. Unfortunately, it does not look that way.

     Of course, we cannot possibly do anything better if the water agency would rather do the proverbial just “watching a sailboat passing by,” or do an Emperor Nero of the old Roman Empire “playing his flute while Rome was burning.”

     And maybe, just maybe, the DCWD hydrologists, if it has one or two or three, should not insist on believing that the south and the southwestern section of the city is more blessed with ideal water sources than the northern sector of the city.  There may also probably be an ideal potable water source on the latter side of the city, somewhere waiting to be discovered.

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