Underplayed by the local media preoccupied with major breaking stories in the last few weeks (e.g the capture of the Reyes brothers and the ENipas stories) was the matter of the bulk water issue at City Hall. A news item ran by Palawan News several weeks ago stated that Mayor Lucilo Bayron will no longer block the approval of the SEP clearance for the City Water District at the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).
While the story did not include the actual statement of Mayor Bayron, who is a mandated and voting member of the Council, it did report that the City government will continue applying for its own water rights over the Montible river, which is the same river source that the Water District (PPCWD) is trying to secure for its expansion plans.
The project is PPCWD’s major initiative to ensure a stable supply. With a fast increasing consumer demand for water in the City proper, it has long been trying to gain access to the Montible and Lapu Lapu Rivers which happened to be within the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice as part of the penal colony estate.
The City’s plan to go into bulk water supply business had placed it squarely against the path of the City Water District as they are competing for the same water source. Apparently upon the instigation of Capitol, the mayor’s office has asked the City Council for authority to negotiate with the DOJ access to the water source.
Mayor Bayron has owned the bulk water supply idea, saying it will allow the City to reduce water rates and benefit the consumers. The problem was that the Councilors wanted to see a feasibility study of the plan, which the City planning office could not produce as it was apparently relying on technical personnel assigned by Capitol.
PPCWD employees corrected me when I reported sometime ago that on two occasions that the committee on natural resources called on the City planning office to present its proposal, they did not show up. There were actually five occasions, as I was admittedly not counting correctly.
It is a good thing however that Mayor Bayron has stated he will not object to the SEP clearance issuance to the PPCWD. The SEP clearance has been positively endorsed by the PCSD staff as the proponent had already submitted all the required documents and other prior clearances.
This however has not been acted upon as the PCSD could not meet due to absence of a quorum. Some critics were suggesting the Council might be deliberately delaying the issue, which is a rather unfair conclusion to make without hard evidence.
But when PCSD finally meets to tackle the matter and the recommendation of PCSDS, it will be a test on how this body will address the conflict of interest situation that exists in the case of Mayor Bayron who represents a competing party, the City government which wants to do what PPCWD also intends to do, and Governor Jose Alvarez who is the Council chair but who at the same time was on record saying that he supports the City’s bulk water business idea.