DAVAO, Philippines - PRIORITIZE THE RIGHT TO WATER of waterless communities and consumers in Davao City. This is the main call of the "Water is a Right: Communities Speak Up", a forum, organized in cooperation with FDC Davao and SIMCARRD, on October 3, Friday, 1:00 PM, at the Mindanao Training Resource Center (MTRC) in Bajada, Davao City.

This is in relation to the on-going squabble of Hydro-Electric Development Corporation (HEDCOR) and Davao City Water District (DCWD) over the water rights in Tamugan River, which seems to push the human rights to water of the Davao water consumers onto the edge of privatization.

Recently, the Aboitiz-owned hydroelectric company plans to build a 7 billion peso - 34 megawatts hydroelectric plant in Tamugan which will get in the way of DCWD's 1.3 billion pipe-laying project. In addition, DCWD applied for a 100 million-peso loan for the maintenance of water distribution lines and watershed rehabilitation in the said river.

HEDCOR argues that they can also provide water while answering the anticipated power crisis for the next two year. On the other hand, DCWD says they will not surrender on their authority since the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973 says that water is always given priority over power.

But communities surrounding the river are reluctant with the plans of this two clashing entities. Tom Villarin, Executive Director of SIAD Initiatives in Mindanao – Convergence for Asset Reform and Regional Development (SIMCARRD), an FDC Board Member, backed-up this reluctance saying that "communities should speak up; their right to water must be prioritized in any circumstances, more so in these times wherein big companies are eyeing basic services such as water distribution and power generation."

Moreover, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) - Davao Chairperson, Salvador Feranil laments that basic service such as water distribution should not be put in the hands of private corporations and instead should remain state-managed wherein the consumers have better chances of putting their concerns in the forefront.

"Our right to water ends where privatization of water distribution begins. We should never let these corporations and other entities curtail and violate our rights by controlling this basic service, imposing loans and transactions, and implementing projects in the name of public service while passing-on the burden of loan repayments to poor taxpayers and consumers who will bear the brunt of increased water rates," Feranil further elaborates.

Furthermore, Partido ng Manggagawa-Davao Jong Pacanot, another FDC Davao Board Member, exclaimed that "we neither take side with HEDCOR nor DCWD. FDC Davao is on the side of approximately 30, 000 waterless households in the affected district and roughly a million consumers in the city who will feel the costs of these projects through water rate hikes."

Lastly, FDC Davao suggested that a community-based water distribution system could be an option for a democratized water service in the city. FDC Davao believes that this will serve more to the public interest and will slim-down the chances of privatization of water utilities which will kill the peoples' right to water.

FDC Davao and SIMCARRD will be joined by other development organizations, members of the local government, and communities concern with the issues. DCWD confirmed their attendance and will present their side on the whole controversy. As of press time, the organizers of the forum still await the response from HEDCOR to confirm their presence and participation in this forum. -30-

Contact Person:
Erwin Sarmiento
Secretary General - FDC Davao

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