Balilihan-Sevilla water tiff hangs in the balance

By Ric Obedencio | 02:03 PM August 07, 2023

The provincial board chaired by Vice-Gov. Donisio Victor A. Balite has put on hold its official position over the Balilihan-Sevilla water dispute that has been dragging for months now.

“Considering the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has a role limited only to mediate for the two parties to settle the issue amicably, this Body recommends to wait for the written comments, positions and recommendations coming from the NWRB earlier sought in the hope to shed light over the matter. In the meantime, the issue is shelved until further notice,” according to its recommendation.

The SP acted as a Committee of the Whole chaired by Balite to scrutinize the water conflict in aid of legislation after the privilege Speech of Board Member Nathaniel O. Binlod.

Balite stressed that the matter stemmed from the “privilege speech of Board Member Binlod which was also read in full during the deliberation and that the members of the Committee would like to be apprised of the status, specifically if there is already an agreement between the two parties, Sevilla and Balilihan, after two mediations were made.”

Balite’s committee said that a letter was sent to Dr. Sevillo D. David, Jr., Executive Director of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB). The said letter was received on July 13, 2023.

The said letter requested NWRB to submit to the committee written comments, positions and recommendations on the matter on or before July 17, 2023. But no respond yet received by the committee despite several follow-up thru emails from David, the committee report said.

The said committee found that based on Balilihan, Mayor Chatto revelation of the “issue stating at the onset that its resolution lies with the National Water Resources Board (NWRB); that Balilihan crafted a 25-year Water Master Plan in 2015 and started to develop the water source in 2020 after the NWRB granted the local government a Conditional Water Permit.”

The SP also learned from Chatto that “coordinates in the Bugwak Spring water supply project are determined not by the LGU but by the National Irrigation Administration, that is why Balilihan should not be faulted for the error.”

She reiterated that all waters belong to the state and that jurisdiction over said waters belongs with the NWRB and that while the water supply project is for Balilihan, its construction was done by DPWH.”

Mayor Juliet Dano repeated the town’s sentiment. It “is in fact a simple problem, only a matter of rectifying an error, in particular, as to the site of the water sourced by Balilihan in Bugwak Spring which on paper is in Sto. Niño, Balilihan, but in actuality is in Magsaysay, Sevilla.”

By virtue of the Sangguniang Bayan’s authority conferred on her, Dano said she was only protecting the interest of Sevilla and its inhabitants after the alleged intrusion of Balilihna into its territory without information and caused the removal of illegal structures in their territory mounted by Balilihan.

“Mayor Dano clarified that they did not remove any vital infrastructure, contrary to reports, but only the submersible pump and some components installed for Balilihan in Magsaysay, Sevilla,” she said.

“If there was only respect and coordination, there would not have been a problem and that the issue would not have escalated if the several requests to Balilihan for the dismantling of the illegal structures were only acted upon accordingly,” she added.

Other findings of the committee are the following: Department of Public Works and Highways said the total amount of the water project of Balilihan is 81.9 million pesos and the project is owned by the national government, implemented by the DPWH; that it is the responsibility of the LGU to secure permits for water rights

Based on NWRB record, the Bugwak Spring has a capacity of around 6000 liters per second; that Sevilla’s water rights was originally for 22 liters per second augmented to 33 liters per second and that the same is not enough to cater the needs of Balilihan.

Balilihan was given permit by the NWRB in January 2020 for 227.18 liters per second for its around 19,000 residents in 4,000 households in 31 barangays.

Based on National Irrigation Administration’s (NIA) explanation, there indeed was an error in the coordinates for the Bugwak Spring water supply project with NIA using military maps as reference; that said error was discovered only after Balilihan was issued a Conditional Water Permit in January 2020.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) clarified that Bugwak Spring is not within the protected area and not within the jurisdiction of the Protected Area Management Bureau (PAMB), but with the NWRB, contrary to the statement of the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO).

Those present of the meeting presided over by Balite were: board members Venzencio B. Arcamo, Aldner R. Damalerio, Vierna Mae F. Boniel, Nathaniel O. Binlod, Greg Crispinito L. Jala, Lucille Y. Lagunay, Atty. Tomas D. Abapo, Jr., Atty. Jiselle Rae A. Villamor, Elpidio L. Bonita and Gloria B. Gementiza, Chatto, SB Member Lorenzo A. Baliong, Jr., Mr. Solomon Calamba, Jr. and Raquel G. Calope, Dano, Mayor, Vice Mayor Richard B. Bucag, Jocelyn M. Dano, Eumar E. Barro, Charissa E. Macarayan, Ms. Jania Calacat and Arch. Gervacio G. Cutin, Jr., Atty. Handel T. Lagunay, Mr. Angelus L. Sales, Mildred A. Madronero and Josue Salga of the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO), Mr. Ariel N. Rica of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO); Mr. Pacifico J. Alfaredo, Jr. of the Bohol Provincial Environment Management Office (BPEMO); Ms. Josephine F. Cacho, Ms. Ma. Leizl Dolorican, Mr. Alberto Rebusa, Mr. Peter John A. Sombilon and Mr. Julius Cesar G. Ladao of the 1st Engineering District, DPWH; Engr. Louiel Ian R. Lomotos of 3rd Engineering District, DPWH; Mr. Rico B. Batoon and Ms. Rhea Mae D. Bulala of the National Irrigation Administration, Region 7; and the Committee Secretariat. (rvo)

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