Davao City [Phillipines] shields aquifer from Pepsi, CocaCola bottling plants

By ROGER M. BALANZA, Durian Post
October 2, 2008

The Davao City Council is putting on hold approval of bottling projects atop the city aquifer, while the Water Resource Protection and Management Code lack an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

Councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling has also called for the constitution of the Water Management and Protection Council, the body to be created by the code which would approve applications for business that would draw out water from the underground reservoir.

Cabling, chair of the committee on housing, rural and urban development, is handling the application of two investors that would set up bottling companies in Binugao in Toril, which has been tagged as a water resource area by the Water Code.

Saving the aquifer

InterBev Corporation has sought approval of the council for reclassification to heavy industrial zone its property in Binugao to set up a carbonated soft drink and bottled water manufacturing plant.

SMI Development Corporation is seeking the same reclassification for its property that would be site of a carbonated and juice processing plant.

The Water Code has not been implemented despite its approval ten years ago for lack of an IRR, reportedly still under review by City Hall. Cabling said even as the code lacks the IRR, the Water Code is already an ordinance and approving the applications would run counter to the code’s provision requiring the approval of the Water Management and Protection Council.

Diminishing supply

The code primarily aims to protect the city’s water resource area where the Davao City Water District draws out water for the city’s needs. Experts say the aquifer could last only for 50 years without an alternative source of supply and the water district is planning a surface water development project using the Panigan and Tamugan rivers.

Cabling said the bottling projects are water-intensive and would be drawing out water through wells from the aquifer for their bottling and operational needs to pose another threat to the aquifer.

Under the Water Code, any project that would pump out water from the aquifer would have to be approved by the Water Management and Protection Council headed by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Share from wealth

Other than calling for the constitution of the Water Council and the approval of the IRR, Cabling said there is also a need to establish if the projects needed the approval of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), the national agency regulating use of water and water resources; and the revenue share of the local government in the utilization of natural wealth as spelled out in the National Internal Revenue Code.

Cabling himself is personally against the projects, saying the aquifer should not be burdened further by industries challenging its capacity.

“Approving the applications may set a precedent and allow other water-based industries in the Water Resource Area to further threaten the aquifer, he said adding over-extraction could lead to intrusion of sea water into the aquifer as water level at the underground reservoir is lowered, to violate the purity and sweetness of Davao water considered as the second best in the world,” said Cabling.

Regulated use

“The projects should be held in abeyance pending constitution of the Davao City Water Management and Protection Council, created by the Water Code to implement its provisions which should issue clearance to drilling, so that the applications can be thoroughly studied for its effects on the aquifer,” said Cabling, also the author of the landmark Davao City Watershed Protection, Management and Conservation Code.

Two companies are currently engaged in bottling operations in the water resource areas—Pepsi in Dumoy and CocaCola in Talomo proper.

But Cabling said “there is now an urgent need to establish the volume of water that the projects would be pumping out from the wells, which should—if the applications are approved— be regulated at certain levels to conserve the water resource.”