The Batangas City Water District - A Journey Through Time

"Would that I were a dry well, and that the people tossed
stones into me, for that would be easier than to be a spring of
flowing water that the thirsty pass by, and from which they
avoid drinking."

Khalil Gibran

No less than Leonardo da Vinci said that "water is the driving force of all nature." Water is undeniably, a basic human need. This point is driven more emphatically by this quote by W.H Auden: "Thousands have lived without love, note me without water"

For the City of Batangas, the main provider of this most basic of needs is the Batangas City Water District. Its history, from its early beginnings to the present is compelling.

In the early days finding a water source for human consumption was a self-effort. However, modernization dictated a need for a more efficient, stable and centralized means of providing the need for water to a growing population. In the early twentieth century, between the years 1918 to 1921, the local government of the Municipality of Batangas spearheaded an initiative for the development of the Batangas Waterworks to supply the needs of its constituents in the then fast-growing municipality in the Southern Tagalog region.

The initiative started with the purchase of a parcel of land and the construction of a building to house the Batangas Waterworks for a then princely sum of ₱20,000.00. This was followed by the passage on September 26,1922 of Ordinance No.17 of the Batangas Municipal Council, later approved by the Batangas Provincial Board, which granted the Batangas Waterworks the authority to provide water service to the residents of the municipality. This authority was bolstered by the issuance, on January 14, 1925, of a joint circular of the Chief Executive Bureau, the Director of Public Works, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce and Communications which authorized the administration of the waterworks by the Batangas Municipal Council. In the same year, a Certificate of Public Conveyance was issued by the Public Utility Commission, granting authority to operate the waterworks system to the municipality of Batangas. These were years when the municipal government of Batangas played a pivotal role in providing water supply to its residents.

This role of the Batangas municipal government was seriously challenged on June 18, 1955 by the passage of R.A. 1383 which created the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority, commonly known as NAWASA. This signalled the move for the turnover of the ownership and management of all local waterworks system to NAWASA. Its full implementation was directed by Executed Order No. 127 Series of 1955 by then President Ramon Magsaysay. NAWASA asserted full takeover of ownership and management of the Batangas Waterworks System from the municipal government of Batangas on July 1, 1959.

Aggrieved by this turn of events, the municipal government of Batangas, on November 17, 1960, filed a complaint with the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Batangas to compel NAWASA to pay the municipality the amount of ₱250,000.00 as compensation for expropriating its waterworks system, or, in the alternative, to order NAWASA to return the waterworks system to the municipality. NAWASA, for its part, rejected the claim and, instead, filed a counter suit claiming compensation for various expenses incurred for repairs and new installation undertake during their management in the amount of ₱545,000.00. The CFI, in a decision rendered on March 15, 1965, ruled in favor of the municipality of Batangas and directed the return of the waterworks system to the municipality. NAWASA appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals. Before the appeal could be resolved, a sudden turn of events favored the municipality of Batangas. On June 19, 1971 the Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act 6234 which abolished the NAWASA. This was followed by the issuance by then President Ferdinand Marcos of Presidential Decree 198 on May 25, 1973, creating the charter for the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) and authorizing the creation of water districts to improve the local water systems in the provinces. On October 1, 1973, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance of Batangas and directed the NAWASA to return the waterworks system to the Batangas City Government. Finally on December 10, 1973, the defunct agency formally transferred ownership and management of the waterworks system to the City Government of Batangas. At that stage, then Mayor Pedro S. Tolentino was already initiating measures, with the help of LWUA to form the Batangas City Water District (BCWD).

Batangas City Water District: From The Early Years and Forty Years Hence

The Batangas City Government initiated the creation of the Batangas City Water District with the passage, on January 14, 1974, of Municipal Board Resolution No.26 Series of 1974. The resolution was filed with the Local Water Utilities Administration. Upon its approval and with the registration in accordance with the provisions of Sec. 7 of PD 198, the Batangas City Water District was deemed duly created and existing. Upon its creation, Batangas City Water District, as with all other water districts, was deemed a quasi-public corporation exercising rights and privileges accorded a private business establishment, with minimal interference from local government units.

The first order of business for the newly-formed BCWD was to determine the men and women who would take the helm of its management. Representative from different sectors of society were chosen as members of the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors (BOD) of the BCWD immediately held their first meeting on February 17, 1974. Elected during the said gathering were the following, (1) Mr. Hermenegildo L. Bagui, representing the civic-oriented clubs, as Chairman; (2) Mr. Honesto D. Mendoza, representing the professional organizations, as Vice-Chairman; (3) Ms. Concepcion F. Arceo, representing the women's associations, as Secretary-Treasurer; and (4) Engr. Juan T. Bonot, representing the business, commercial and industrial sector, as member. Mr. Rosauro T. de Leon, representing the educational institutions, was sworn into office as its fifth member during the Board's second meeting on March 18, 1974. On that same meeting, the Board of Directors also decided, prior to naming the BCWD General Manager, to designate the head of the City Engineer's Office, Engr. Roberto J. Reyes, as Officer-in-Charge of the district.

At that time there were seven (7) existing groundwater wells which were turned over by the Batangas City Government to the BCWD, namely: (1) the Sambat Pumping Station (PS), (2) P. Herrera St. PS (now simply referred to as Plantex), (3) R.R. Station PS (in the PNR Reservation), (4) Lopez-Jaena PS, (5) Calicanto PS, (6) P. Zamora St. PS (back of Citimart Shop-on) and (7) Alangilan PS, (now referred to as APC Well No. 1). There were three (3) reservoirs on three locations namely; (1) reservoir located at P. Herrera St. beside the pumping station, (2) reservoir at the R.R. Station beside the pumping station, and (3) reservoir at the Capitol Hill near the Chinese cemetery. Of the seven original wells, only three remain operational (Sambat, Calicanto and APC Well No. 7) and remain part of the BCWD water system. All the three (3) reservoirs inherited by the BCWD are no longer operational.

Under direct city government supervision, collections from water bills averaged only ₱16,000.00 a month while diesel fuel to operate the pumping units alone cost ₱32,000.00 a month. They were clearly operating at a loss. Water supply service was also limited to only about 16 hours a day. Considerable measures, however, were carried out to improve the situation. On June 11, 1974, LWUA issued the Conditional Certificate of Conformance (CCC) to the BCWD in recognition of its significant efforts to undertake steps and fulfill its commitment to upgrade the quality of water service to the public. On August 08, 1974, the Board of Directors designated LWUA as its agent or representative in signing up Kampsax-Kruger of Denmark for consultancy services. Its contract was to conduct project feasibility studies, conceptualized designs and supervise construction plans for the improvement of the Marawi City and Batangas City Waterworks Systems. On August 09, 1974, the local government, for its part, gave LWUA ₱70,000.00 as counterpart fund for the said undertaking.

In an effort to steer BCWD towards efficient day-to-day operation, the Board of Directors, on August 18, 1974, appointed its first general manager- Engr. Nilo M. Maranan. He was immediately dispatched to attend the LWUA- conducted Management Seminar from August 10 to September 2, 1974. Immediately thereafter, on September 8, 1974 the Board of Directors passed a resolution authorizing General Manager Nilo Maranan to enter into an agreement with LWUA with the objective of improving the BCWD water supply system. Feasibility study and design of the water supply system were jumpstarted on September 25, 1974. The official agreement was executed between BCWD, represented by its general manager, Nilo Maranan, and the LWUA, to conduct feasibility studies, to design plans and to supervise the construction of water supply systems as well as the drilling of test wells. The agreement authorized LWUA to procure consultancy services to accomplish these tasks.

On January 1, 1975, the water supply system, as designed and conceptualized with the assistance of LWUA and its expert consultants, was formally turned over to BCWD. The Board of Directors and the management was ready to face the challenge of turning the BCWD into a cost-efficient, productive, dependable and viable enterprise. Fortunately, the BCWD was able to embark immediately on some interim improvement with the aid of a ₱150,000.00 subsidy from the city government.

Under the better designed and conceptualized water supply system, improvements were completed by May 31, 1975, namely: (1) the installation of additional suction pipes and accessories, replacement of bowl assembly for the P. Herrera St. and PNR Railroad (RR) Station pumping units to its then capacity of 340gpm to 700gpm; (2) the reactivation of the P. Zamora and Lopez-Jaena Streets pumping units by the procurement and installation of new pumps to raise water production to an additional capacity of 600gpm; (3) the repair of the concrete reservoir located in the Capitol Hills, alteration and repair of defective pipes, fittings and valves, repair of leaks, procurement of accessories for maintenance, and closure of public faucets; and (4) the operation of the pumping units for 20 hours instead of 16 hours a day to increase production from 1.4mgpd to 2.7mgpd using 7 pumping units.

The water rate was also targeted for change. On June 16, 1975, upon approval, through a public hearing, the water rate, which was then a flat fee of ₱5.00 a month, was adjusted to a more realistic and sustainable amount of ₱15.85 for the first 10 cubic meters and ₱0.62 per cubic meter for succeeding consumption in order to compensate for operational costs and capital expenditures.

These improvements paved the way for the institutional development of the BCWD management and staff, which was then the only collateral for the procurement of financial assistance in the form of loans from LWUA. To sustain the improvements, the BCWD was able to secure a loan from LWUA on July 28, 1975, in the amount of ₱16 million, to finance the undertaking of feasibility studies, overseeing of a test well program, payment of consultancy services, design, planning, preparation and supervision of the construction of the BCWD water supply system. The financing was obtained out of the first comprehensive project package from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). The final report on the feasibility studies and design for the improvement of the BCWD water supply system was completed on April 2, 1976. The study, though, showed that the cost estimates for the implementation of Phase I-A, by which the project was to be called, would amount to ₱20.40 million.

To make up for the difference between the original loan and the increase in cost of undertaking the project, the BCWD applied for and was able to secure an initial amendment to the original LWUA contract increasing the loan from ₱16 million to ₱25 million in March 1978. Immediately after securing the loan readjustment, the BCWD commenced implementing the Phase I-A project by constructing its modern water supply system consisting of three (3) groundwater wells in integration with an existing groundwater well, 50 kilometers of transmission and distribution mains, a 4,000m3 volume capacity reinforced concrete ground reservoir, production building, workshop building and break pressure chamber. By November 29, 1980, after completion of the improvement project, the BCWD was able to secure another amendment to the LWUA contract increasing the loan from ₱25 million to ₱30 million. This increase was needed in order to accommodate the capitalization of the interest generated by the loan.

In September 1981, the BCWD constructed and completed a single storey building in Alangilan, Batangas City to permanently house its employees and its operations. Prior to this, the district was renting an office space in an old building along Rizal Avenue near P. Mendoza St.

On March 12, 1992, a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the Philippines clarified the status of the water districts. The Supreme Court determined that water districts should be categorized as government-owned-and-controlled-corporations (GOCC). The court decision resulted to new challenges to the BCWD's corporate culture and imposed on them additional prerequisites and obligations in the operation of the corporation. Aside from guidelines set down by the Board of Directors and LWUA, the BCWD, as with all water districts in the country, must now abide by rules mandated by government agencies such as the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Commission and Audit (COA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). However, on the plus side, the change also gained for the BCWD some rights privileges and benefits due a government institution. Some of these benefits took the form of better cooperation coming from the various government regulatory agencies as the BCWD implements its projects and its daily maintenance and operational tasks as well as added protection and security to the employment status of its personnel.

Engr. Nilo M. Maranan retired from the BCWD on June 30, 1994 after almost twenty (20) years of service. He was temporarily replaced by the Assistant General Manager, Mr. Sulpicio G. Alvarez, who held the position in transition until the end of November 1994. The board finally selected Mrs. Virginia E. Leyesa, who was the Commercial Division Manager then on her appointment, on December 1994.

During GM Leyesa's term, the BCWD implemented the Batangas City Water Supply System Improvement Project Phase II which significantly expanded its service area. This project cost approximately ₱200 million and financing was secured through LWUA from the 20th Yen Credit Package of Japan's Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) now called Japan Bank for International Cooperation Fund (JBIC0. As with the Phase 1-A project, the BCWD authorized the LWUA to enter into a contract to hire the services of the Provincial Cities Water Supply Project IV (PCWSP 4), a consortium headed by foreign consultants: Binnie & Partners (Overseas) Ltd. In association with Nisshin Engineering Consultants, (Japan). Their local counterparts are: Schema Konsult, Inc., Phils.; Test Consultants, Inc., Phils.; Radian technology, Inc. Phils. (now called Radian Consulting, Inc.); and Engineering and Development Corp. of the Phils.

This project covered the construction of six (6) additional groundwater wells, which are now operational namely, Sta. Rita Karsada Well, Mahabang Parang Well, Gulod Labac Well and APC Well Nos. 8,9 and 10 as well as more than 61 kilometers of transmission and distribution mains. It extended water supply lines to Banaba South, parts of Banaba east, parts of Balete, parts of Gulod Labac, the rest of Pallocan West, parts of Libjo, parts of San Isidro, Tabangao Aplaya, Tabangao Ambulong, and Pinamucan Proper as well as improve water service in its existing system at Sta. Rita Karsada, Bolbok, Calicanto, Mahabang Parang, Soro-soro Karsada, Soro-soro Ilaya, Balagtas, Tingga Labac, Alangilan, Kumintang Ibaba, Kumintang Ilaya, Poblacion Barangays Cuta, New Malitam, Sta. Clara, and Wawa. The project commenced implementation on February 2000 and was finally completed on May 11, 2007.

On June 30, 2006, before Phase II was completed, Mrs. Leyesa retired as general manager and was subsequently appointed a member of the BCWD Board of Directors. The Board of Directors designated Mrs. Yolanda B. Oyao, who was then the Division Manager of the Administrative Division, as Acting General Manager on July 01, 2006. She became general manager on February 16, 2010. While still the Acting General Manager, she presided over the final stages of the Phase II project and went further by extending the project to other areas not originally covered by the expansion and improvement scheme.

Today, the BCWD has twenty-five (25) operational pumping stations and eleven (11) active reservoirs. It has more than 251,997 meters of transmission and distribution pipelines in 56 barangays including those in the city proper and at present serving 36,526 concessionaires. Its billing collection is computerized while the administration and accounting systems are also undergoing transition towards that direction.

Aside from its main office in Alangilan and the DBP and RCBC collecting banks, the BCWD now has a field collection office located along P. Zamora St. near the corner of Evangelista St. BCWD also has an arrangement with SM City Batangas to collect water bill payments with a small service charge in its mall in Pallocan West and its Hypermarket in Balagtas.

Starting in 2008, the BCWD embarked on a plan to eventually replace all pipelines made up of asbestos cement which were installed during the Phase 1-A project, totaling more than forty-four (44) kilometers. These pipelines are now more than thirty (30) years old and leak-prone. Other pipelines of residential subdivisions turned over to the BCWD, which are not of standard size and specifications and also leak-prone are likewise being replaced.

To fund this huge undertaking, by the management sought to obtain loans with various financial institutions to implement the project. Temporarily hindered by non-availability of said loans the BCWD is currently implementing a phase-by-phase replacement of said old and leak-prone pipelines in the city financed through self-generated funds. Since there are constraints to the program, such as the volume of traffic in the poblacion (the main target of the project), the numerous facilities of other utility companies on and under the road network and other similar considerations, it was recommended that the program be carried out in stages with continuous coordination with the concerned government agencies and affected utility companies.

As may be gleaned from the 40 years of BCWD'S existence, it remains in a constant state of activity-all geared towards providing quality service to its customers. Never one to rest on its laurels, the Batangas City Water District is a model of a government owned and controlled corporation with the ethic of a good business enterprise: well-attuned to the needs of its customers, mindful of the fact it is an establishment impressed with public service, while remaining a viable business enterprise.

"The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green"

- Thomas Carlyle

"Truth will rise above falsehood as oil above water."

- Miguel de Cervantes