Friday, November 11, 2005


Maasin watershed deteriorating

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ASIDE from management dilemmas, the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) is also in danger of losing its main source of potable water at the Maasin watershed due to lack of comprehensive planning.
Based on the latest feasibility study of the Kahublagan sang Panimalay Foundation, Inc. (KSPFI), the absence of a central body that will handle preservation efforts and conflicts in strategies have resulted to the gradual withering of the watershed.
The KSPFI also conducted a study on the rehabilitation of watershed in the early 90s, the period where the Maasin watershed was already 92 percent denuded due to human activities.
The watershed has a total area of 6,150 hectares and provides water for agricultural, domestic and industrial uses.
In 1990s, the MIWD sourced 72 percent of its water requirement from the Maasin catchment until it began to explore other sources like surface and deep wells. But the latter sources have also diminished due to continuous diggings of private wells within MIWD’s concession area.
Aside from the lack of reliable water source, the MIWD is also suffering from old and defective pipelines aside from numerous cases of water pilferers.
In 2000, the projected demand of water for all uses from the Maasin watershed was at 62,468,380 cubic meters per year but the projected water supply was only 5,298,048 cubic meters, a staggering gap of 57.17million cubic meters per year.
Although the KSPFI recommended reforestation and preservation programs to save watershed, it continued to deteriorate particularly this year when the Maasin dam and Tigum River dried up.
The KSPFI and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) even conducted an ocular inspection of the watershed to investigate its status.
Dr. Jessica Salas of KSPFI found out that their recommendations were not followed to the letter.
“Because of different and irreconcilable goals of the earlier feasibility study and the actual implementation, two strategies recommended in the study have not been implemented namely the improved production practices and increase productivity/efficiency. The former was for the conservation of resources and the latter the development of farm livelihood,” Salas observed in her study.
Salas also noticed the lack of coordination among the MIWD, environment department and the local government to solve the problem.
In a meeting of the Iloilo Watershed Management Council this year, Salas noted “finger pointing between the MIWD, DENR and the local government.”
“The MIWD blamed the DENR for not properly protecting the watershed. The local government blamed the MIWD for getting more water that it should. The DENR said it was climate change. The non-government organizations said the massive plantation and exotic species in the rehabilitation project siphoned available water during distinct dry season. And all the council did was to listen,” Salas said.
On the other hand, Local Waters Utilities Administration (Lwua) chief Lorenzo Jamora said the takeover of the MIWD is necessary “to protect our consumers and the interest of the Lwua.
The Lwua is the regulating body of all water utilities in the country.
Jamora said they are concerned with the slow implementation of the MIWD’s rehabilitation project.
“The takeover stemmed from purely management problems. It has been two years since we approved the loan for the project but not much has been accomplished. We are concerned with the very slow pace of the rehabilitation,” Jamora said.
Jamora clarified the slippage in the project is 80 percent “which is already a case of non-implementation of the project.”
“The MIWD owes us money so we have to protect our interest. And in the end the consumers themselves will suffer,” Jamora said.
Jamora added interim MIWD general manager Engr. Edwin Reyes will only stay on a temporary basis “until we have finished the internal audit of the project.”
“Engr. Le Jayme Jalbuena is still the general manager but for the meantime, he is giving way for our people for the audit. This is purely a managerial matter since it was the MIWD board of directors that requested for our help,” Jamora said. (Published in The Gaurdian-Western Visayas, November 10, 2005 issue)

Molo robbery confuses cops, too

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

EVEN the police are confused if what really happened during the Monday evening robbery of a collector of a chain of gasoline pump stations at Barangay East Timawa, Molo, Iloilo City.
Inspector Frankie Lugo, Molo PNP chief, said they are also wondering why collector-cum-driver Anthony Biscayda (not Viscaya as earlier reported), 34, of Escarilla Subdivision, Mandurriao, Iloilo told two versions of the heist.
Biscayda is the collector of the Santos chain of Shell gas stations.
Worse, the person whom Biscayda recognized as one of the robbers is presently detained for possession of illegal drugs.
Lugo said they are carefully investigating the two versions of the incident by Biscayda.
In several media interviews right after the incident, Biscayda said one of the suspects already held him at gunpoint after getting the day’s collection at their outlet at Ledesma-Mabini Streets, Iloilo City Proper.
The suspect then told him to proceed with his collection chores at Ledesma-Jalandoni and East Timawa outlets.
Biscayda said the robbers carted away more than P100,000 in cash.
But in the Molo police blotter report, Biscayda said he was already on his way to the East Timawa pump station when the robbers on board a white taxi blocked his path near the Iloilo Doctors’ Hospital.
One of the suspects armed with a caliber .45 pistol forcibly opened the van and told Biscayda to proceed to the Timawa station.
At the said gasoline outlet, three more suspects emerged and took away all the collection money.
The suspects even forced the station attendants to go under the benches to prevent them from fighting back.
The four robbers fled from the scene on board the same white taxi.
Biscayda said he failed to take note of the taxi’s plate number since it was parked at a dark portion of the crime scene.
At the Molo PNP yesterday, Biscayda recognized a certain Gilbert Hortillas from the rogues’ gallery as one of the suspects.
Hortillas is a resident of Barangay San Vicente, Jaro, Iloilo City. But his relatives said it is impossible for Hortillas to join in the robbery since he is presently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) district jail in Barangay Ungka, Jaro, Iloilo City.
Hortillas was arrested last October for possession of shabu at Barangay Bakhaw, Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
Chief Insp. Amelito Fuentes, BJMP district jail warden, confirmed Hortillas is one of their inmates.
“He has been detained at Selda 1 since last week so it is impossible for him to get out of prison without any court clearance. Maybe the suspect in the robbery was just a look alike of Hortillas,” Fuentes said.
In an interview with Bombo Radyo reporter Edwin Laruan, Hortillas denied involvement in the heist “since I am here inside the jail.”
Hortillas added he has never been involved in any robbery case before.
Insp. Lugo said they will dig deeper into the case particularly on the inconsistencies in Biscayda’s statements.
Police have also identified other suspects but Lugo declined to name them pending their investigation.
Lugo said they make Biscayda identify Hortillas in person to ascertain the former’s claim. (Published in The Gaurdian-Western Visayas, November 10, 2005 issue)


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