Apo Agua bulk water supply project tapping Tamugan River approved by Davao council

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DAVAO CITY — The city council has approved Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc.’s (AAII) proposed bulk water supply project, which will provide 300 million liters per day sourced from the Tamugan River.

The council conducted marathon sessions this week to discuss the ordinance granting the company’s request for the additional allowable use of an 85,258-square meter area in Barangay Gumalang, Baguio District for the water treatment facility.

The P10-billion bulk water project was granted concurrence by the city council last year through Resolution No. 02754-16, but was subject to some conditions such as more detailed plans and assessments relating to socioeconomic and environmental impact.

The additional request was first presented to the council in June, but was remanded to the committee level for further discussion after various stakeholders raised issues such impact on the host community and the assignment of Davao City Water District’s (DCWD) water rights to AAII, a partnership between Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV), Inc. and J.V. Angeles Construction Corp.

DCWD, a public entity that holds the franchise for water distribution in Davao City, currently gets its water supply from underground sources using more than 50 production wells.

With the council’s approval, AAII is hoping to start ground work within the year for the hydroelectric-powered facility even as other government permits remain pending.

“We have started with the design and once we get the allowable use, we will get the certification for eligibility to convert from the Department of Agriculture, and then to the Department of Agrarian Reform for conversion,” AAII General Manager Cirilo C. Almario III said in an interview.

Mr. Almario said the target is to have the bulk water supply system operational by 2019, but this could possibly be moved to 2020, depending on how soon the company can secure the permits.

Meanwhile, one of the councilors stressed that his affirmative vote on the project remains subject to certain conditions, including the submission of a manifestation from AAII that the power that will be generated from the project’s hydropower plant component will be for the exclusive use of the bulk water supply and not sold to the grid.

“There is no doubt the project being proposed by Apo Agua will contribute to the development of the city. Projects such as this are laudable, but during deliberation of this item, I raised several concerns. Unfortunately, some of these concerns have not been sufficiently addressed,” Councilor Jesus Joseph P. Zozobrado said, noting that the infrastructure will be located in a declared watershed area.

AAII Director Manuel M. Orig, who was present during the council hearings, declined to make the manifestation sought by Mr. Zozobrado, saying that the primary purpose of the company under its articles of incorporation is to develop and manage infrastructure projects in general, which could include energy.

AAII’s majority shareholder, AEV, has power generation and distribution ventures through several other subsidiaries, including within Davao City.

Nonetheless, Mr. Orig assured that AAII has no immediate energy-related plans.

“We would like to clarify that at the present time, we do not have any intention to sell power to outside parties but when the time comes, we will come to the city council to apply for authority or endorsement to sell excess power to the other parties. This is a choice of our source being renewable. We should not waste the opportunity for the city of Davao to capitalize on this resource,” Mr. Orig explained.

Councilor Bernard E. Alag pointed out that the AAII hydropower plant’s expected output is 2.2 megawatts, which is the estimated power required to run the bulk water facility. — Carmencita A. Carillo