The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has signed a joint venture agreement with the Puerto Princesa City Water District (PPCWD) for the development and construction of the P700 million Water Supply Improvement Project (WSIP) Phase II in Montible and Lapu-Lapu rivers which are within the area of jurisdiction of the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF).
The memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed on Monday among BuCor director-general Nicanor Faeldon, IPPF Senior Supt. Geraldo Aro, PPCWD general manager Antonio Jesus Romasanta, and PPCWD board chairman Atty. Winston Gonzales.
Faeldon said he wanted the water supply project to start immediately after he had reviewed its draft.
“I made the decision after a quick review of the initial draft. Sabi ko let’s do this project. I guaranteed that during our first meeting, this project will be to pursued, hindi siya mahirap ayusin. I wonder why it took so long to do this, 2014 pa ‘yan,” Faeldon said.
The project in the two rivers was announced in 2014 by the PPCWD in a bid to provide a stable, reliable, and sustainable supply of water for 30 years in Puerto Princesa City.
It will make use of the resources of Montible River downstream and Lapu-Lapu River upstream.
Romasanta said the fund that will be used to implement the project will be borrowed from the Bank of the Philippines Islands (BPI) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
He assured that the loans will not be shouldered by the water consumers in the city.
Romasanta said they are now expecting the arrival of the construction materials and other supplies from China where they were purchased.
“As soon as possible ay mag-uumpisa dahil parating na rin ang mga equipment ng ating contractor. Nakausap na natin si Supt. Aro kung saan idadaan ‘yong big pipes natin — then okay na tayo lahat,” Romasanta said.
Under the agreement, BuCor will allow the water firm to utilize an area of around 10,000 square meters in the IPPF.
The PPCWD will also pay an income share of 27 centavos for every cubic meter to the BuCor.
The PPCWD project was only issued the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) on July 25, said Romasanta.
Meanwhile, Faeldon said the joint venture agreement is a “win-win” decision for the BuCor and the PPCWD that will both benefit.
However, he said they have to further discuss “accounting parameters” which should include allowing them to see records regarding the deal.
“We need to have some accounting parameters that should make books and records accessible to the BuCor — ‘yong amount of production, rent ng lupa, guaranteed share. This is really a win-win situation for the PPCWD and the 105 million Filipino people kasi hindi naman ito sa BuCor, it is owned by the entire country,” he said.
However, Faeldon said the bigger challenge with the project is maintaining the source of water.
He cited that what happened to Irawan might also happen in the Montible and Lapu-Lapu rivers, particularly if the surrounding forest cover will be destroyed.
To prevent this, Faeldon said he had already discussed with the Western Command (WESCOM) the possibility of signing a joint agreement to patrol the 26,000-hectare penal farm mountain area.
“Hindi naman pupuwedeng kalbuhin natin ‘yan at aasa na may tubig pa kinabukasan. I encourage the water district and the bureau to take the responsibility of maintaining the forest together not only for Puerto Princesa City but for the entire country,” he said.
He said BuCor will be drafting a memorandum of agreement for a multi-agency effort to regularly patrol the area. The members will be BuCor, WESCOM, PPCWD, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Romasanta, on the other hand, said they will also add forest rangers and inmates to join the patrol.
He assured that the payment to the additional personnel for forest monitoring will not reflect on the bills of the consumers.
Although the project is yet to begin, he said they have already set aside an amount to conduct a study for the WSIP Phase III that will include the construction of a dam which will also benefit the IPPF farm modernization program.
“This is not yet the final solution to our problem. We have not yet started this project, WSIP II, but I will include in our budget a certain amount to conduct a study for the WSIP III to include also what we have agreed in this contract, iyong farm modernization program,” he said.
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