By January 5, 2021Opinion, Punchline

DCWD-Pamana JVA, a case for FOI

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


IN the eyes of the Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCC), the joint venture agreement (JVA) between the Dagupan City Water District (DCWD) and Pamana Water is valid and legal, but it still doesn’t remove the fact that the DCWD board of directors remains accountable to the city government and its customers.

The DCWD board’s accountability is to explain fully how and why the joint venture with Pamana was pursued, why it chose the “unsolicited” proposal of Pamana over the proposals of Prime Water and Manila Water.

What made the JVA appear even more dubious in what appears to be a “midnight deal” was when Pamana and the office of the Government -Owned and Controlled Corporations were deployed, instead of DCWD, to do the explanation in defense of the joint venture agreement.

So, what were unacceptable terms to the two proposals that Pamana’s offer was viewed as more acceptable?

But why couldn’t, and didn’t, a single member of the DCWD board directors that approved the agreement, dare to respond to the questions of members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod? Are the legal defense and explanations of Pamana and GOCC supposed to be enough to assure both the city government and DCWD customers that all’s well? That the DCWD board members are no longer accountable simply because the big guns did the explaining? But the big guns invited to explain were not only NOT privy to the hushed, fast-tracked discussion and subsequent approval of the JVA but both Pamana and GOCC are not accountable to the city government. It is the DSWD board of directors that’s accountable!

Is it even possible that not all members of the DCWD board are fully familiar with the terms specified has a copy of the signed JVA? Note, the copy of the JVA was not even submitted to the city council.  Board Chairman Ope Reyna, he who presided over the board meetings, certainly has a lot of explaining and clarifying to do. Not the GOCC, certainly not Pamana, the beneficiary.

The joint venture is going to be a game-changer and certainly both the city government that owns it, and the customers that will eventually shoulder and absorb the impact of the agreement, deserve to know and understand how that joint venture came about, minus the legalities and technicalities which are defensible but not necessarily acceptable and beneficial to the city and the customers.

So, pray tell! What are the problems of DCWD that prompted the board to enter into that hushed negotiation? What guarantees did DCWD get to protect the interests of the customers and of the city government get from that agreement? What projects will be covered and what would be the implications to the customers?  How much will the counterpart be of DCWD in the joint venture?

Then, I don’t understand why the fact that it was “unsolicited” was being stressed. How can a multi-billion joint venture be unsolicited? From the way it looks, someone definitely in the board “solicited” Pamana’s proposal after studying, evaluating and rejecting the two solicited proposals?

Bottomline, make the joint venture agreement public! Freedom of Information demands it. The councilors should demand it.

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BETTER SAFE THAN BE SORRY. Expect the COVID situation in Pangasinan to get worse in the weeks ahead before it can get better.  

The 58 new cases that were reported in the first two days are indicative of what’s in store after all the gatherings among and between families, relatives and friends that took place over the past two weeks. Note that the number of new cases in two days still does not include late verification by the Provincial Health Office.  

What’s worrisome is since infection by unsuspecting carriers cannot be easily be determined unless tested, families that decided to get-together with friends and neighbors risked a lot when they threw caution to the wind, and did away with the health and physical distancing protocols.   

It’d be best for all to consciously stay home and adopt quarantine measures in the next 10 days to protect other relatives and friends. In fact, it’d be advisable to have at least one member of the family to be tested initially to validate any fear that some members of the family or friends with whom they interacted may have been infected by someone in one of the gatherings.

So play it safe lest we forget that COVID-19 can be fatal if the infection is not addressed promptly. And if one has been infected, know that our government hospitals have already adopted treatment protocols that can reverse the infection. Proof of this is the increasing rate of recovery among confirmed positive patients.

So, get yourselves tested early especially if known symptoms are beginning to surface.

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LEARN FROM BEST PRACTICES. Why are a number of towns and barangays in Pangasinan remain COVID-free while most others continue to log new active cases?

The COVID-free towns are: Aguilar, Anda, Bayambang, Bolinao, Burgos, Infanta, Labrador, Mangatarem, Natividad, San Nicolas, San Quintin, Urbiztondo and Villasis.

It’d be worthwhile for the Provincial Health Office to determine what the best practices are being adopted by these towns and barangays that ought to be shared.

Sharing their best practices are the highest accolade that can be extended to them at this point.

Hopefully, we can have all the pertinent data from the PHO and The PUNCH will be too happy to publish the names of barangay and town officials of the COVID-free communities to acknowledge their effective leadership over the past 290 days!

But this is not to diminish the gallant efforts of the kapitans and mayors of affected towns and cities who’re doing all to keep the contagion in check. To their credit, there are other COVID-free barangays in affected towns. We hope PHO has those data.

In Dagupan City, the epicenter of COVID-19, has one COVID-free barangay, Bacayao Sur!

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DANGEROUS MINDSET. For too long, tricycle drivers and motorcycle riders (and now bicycle riders) have been allowed to flout traffic rules in our towns and cities, particularly on one-way streets and highways, and major intersections making them road hazards, causing accidents.  

But police and traffic enforcers, who perhaps are mostly motorcycle riders themselves, seemed to have made it a rule to exempt them, in fact, to tolerate them.   

It is this mindset that has cost many lives of riders, motorists and passengers. If traffic rules are meant to maintain order in the streets and highways and save lives but how can our society maintain order if there are exempted riders and drivers that cause accidents?  

(In Dagupan, tricycle drivers and motorcycle riders cut through the JDV highway in the “No U-Turn” rule from the Babaliwan District, risking being hit by speeding vehicles). 

Our police chiefs and traffic enforcement chiefs should rethink the lax enforcement among tricycle drivers and motorcycle riders (and bicycle riders).

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