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DOZENS of people from Tuburan, Cebu held a lighting rally in front of the Hall of Justice in Toledo City last January 22, 2021 in support of the petition by the Local Government Unit (LGU) to rescind the joint venture deal with SAVS Tuburan Water Corp.

The joint venture agreement between Tuburan LGU and SAVS must be rescinded by the court because the private company only wants to earn money without investing to improve the water system, said their placards.

On that day, the Toledo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 29 has scheduled a hearing for pre-trial on the case filed by Tuburan LGU against SAVS and its president, Arlene Villaroel.

Tuburan Vice Mayor Democrito “Aljun” Diamante said that in the joint venture, SAVS promised to invest about P500 million to improve the water system which was used to be operated by the municipality.

However, Aljun said that in two years time, SAVS and Villaroel just billed and collected payments from consumers with poor water service.

Aljun added that SAVS and Villaroel collected and earned about P10 million from the water system without investing a single centavo as agreed in the deal.

As a result, the Tuburan Municipal Government got back the water system from SAVS Tuburan Water Corp. last July 7, 2020 pending the court decision to rescind the joint venture because the people were suffering from lack of water

Aljun said that they are not interested in recovering the P10 million collected and earned by SAVS in two years. What is important is for the municipality to get back the water system for the sake of the people.

Mayor Danilo M. Diamante said the Tuburan LGU has spent about P8 million for re-piping and improvement of the water system which used to be handled by the municipality but was operated by SAVs for years.

The P8 million water project was completed last December 2020 making water supply available to the Tuburan consumers 24 hours a day.

“The people of Tuburan, Cebu are now enjoying sufficient water supply despite an ongoing legal battle before the Regional Trial Court,” Mayor Diamante said.

The RTC in Toledo City postponed the hearing for pre-trial of the petition last January 22, 2021 after the defendant, SAVS Tuburan Water Corp. asked to resolve first its affirmative defenses to the complaint.

Atty. Donato Villa Jr. of the Cebu Provincial Legal Office and counsel for Tuburan LGU, said that the move further delays the case that was filed on March 3, 2020.

Villa added that the next hearing for pre-trial was rescheduled by the court on March 12, 2021.

Atty. Rodulfo Dacalos Jr., another counsel for Tuburan LGU said he hope that the court will deny the affirmative defenses of SAVS Tuburan Water Corp.

Earlier, Dacalos said the court denied the injunctive relief, citing general welfare.

Villa said that the people of Tuburan should not suffer for SAVS failure to invest to improve the water system as it is stated in the joint venture deal.

In the petition to rescind the deal, the Tuburan LGU alleged that in two years of operations by SAVS, from the start until July 7, 2020, the water distribution of Tuburan was poor and the improvement that was promised as stated in the joint venture agreement was never materialized.

Aside from the poor water distribution to consumers, the water of Tuburan was allegedly positive of fecal coliform based on water analysis conducted by Cebu Provincial Health Office laboratory.

For his part, SAVS Tuburan Water Corp. president Arlene Villaroel issued a final demand against the municipal government to cease and desist from interfering or obstructing company operation and management.

Villaroel’s demand letter dated July 3, 2020 was addressed to Mayor Danilo Diamante, Vice Mayor Democrito “Aljun” M. Diamante and all members of Sanguniang Bayan, the municipal treasurer and 42 barangay captains.

Villaroel clarified that the joint venture signed on December 1, 2016 and concession agreement dated April 25, 2017 between SAVS and Tuburan LGU has not been declared null and void and remains to this day valid and effective.