Davao council backs water project bid by Cebu’s Helpmate

Posted on March 28, 2017

DAVAO CITY -- The Davao City Council has passed a resolution backing Cebu-based water provider Helpmate, Inc.’s bid to supply water to this city’s Buhangin district, a council member said.

Councilor Bernie E. Al-ag said the council passed the resolution earlier this month. It urges the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to approve the application of Helpmate to implement a water system in this city.

In 2015, Helpmate proposed to undertake a water project in Buhangin District by early 2016, but the Davao City Water District (DCWD) asked the NWRB to stop the implementation of Helpmate’s project, alleging that the company started construction without the necessary permits.

“It’s really up to the NWRB if they will respond or not to the resolution. It is just our recommendation. The council also questioned why the water regulating body has no office here in Davao and only in Manila. No one else knows our water problems better than locals and that is why the city council is also proposing that the final approval of the utilization of water should be with the local government,” Mr. Al-ag said.

Mr. Al-ag said the City Council approved the application of Helpmate two years ago. What the Helpmate needs now is the approval of NWRB, over the objections of the DCWD.

“The more (the DCWD) blocks the project, the less likely the district’s water problems will be resolved. We have given the authority to Helpmate to operate in Buhangin District only... If they were not blocked by DCWD they would have been able by now to provide water from the Davao River ,” Mr. Al-ag said.

Mr. Al-ag said two years ago the councilors went to Cebu to check the water quality of Helpmate.

“We sampled the water produced by Helpmate and we also talked to the people Helpmate provided with water. We found no problems,” he said.

Helpmate is also required to obtain testing certification from the Department of Health (DOH) and City Health Office certifying the water’s potability.

Mr. Al-ag said the basis for the council’s decision is a 2007 ruling by the Supreme Court allowing other companies to provide water in the city.

In earlier interviews, DCWD’s spokesman, lawyer Bernard Delima acknowledged that DCWD enjoys no exclusive franchise in Davao but is opposing Helpmate’s operations outside Buhangin.

“If that is the case DCWD can always inform the council because we have given (Helpmate) the authority to operate within the Buhangin District. We can always revoke the authority of Helpmate if it goes beyond the areas it is allowed to operate in,” Mr. Al-ag said.

DCWD is looking at the Apo Agua Bulk Water Project as a solution to the water crisis in Buhangin District, which is being eyed to start operating in 2019.

Mr. Al-ag said DCWD and Helpmate can coexist as the city is promoting healthy competition for the benefit of consumers. He said the council’s position is opening Davao to other players to improve water services. -- Maya M. Padillo