ILOILO City – Bulk water supplier Flo Water Resources, Inc. has accused Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) of violating their bulk water supply contract (BWSC) for failing to act upon learning that the water delivered from April 7 to 15 supposedly had discoloration.
“Despite of its knowledge of the foregoing water quality issue, MIWD did not stop Flo Water from delivering the bulk water required under the BWSC. Quite the opposite, it benefited from the water delivered as it was distributed to consumers, who then paid MIWD for the same,” according to Angara Abello Concepcion Regala and Cruz Law Offices, the legal counsel of Flo Water.
Part of BWSC’s Section 7 stipulated: “If the water quality parameter in dispute has not been resolved within 24 hours, MIWD reserves the right to order for an immediate shutdown of the water supply.”
MIWD deducted P1,589, 452.34 from the April 2019 billing of Flo Water as penalty for delivering “discolored” water.
Flo Water protested. In a letter to MIWD on May 20, it stressed that such withholding of payment was illegal and unjustified under the BWSC. It subsequently stopped delivering water beginning June 4.
Under the BWSC, Flo Water shall supply MIWD with 15,000 cubic meters of water daily.
Flo Water’s legal team pointed out its client delivered the required monthly volume of bulk water for the month of April 2019.
It also stressed that the water delivered during the contested period (April 7 to 15) was safe for human consumption, thus the bulk water supplier should be entitled to payment of the full amount for water delivered.
MIWD DULY INFORMED
Flo Water’s legal counsel emphasized that MIWD cannot pretend it was not informed of the color quality of the water delivered; it was duly informed.
In fact, it added, MIWD representatives stationed at Injection Point III instructed Flo Water on a daily basis to exert extraordinary efforts to “correct” the “color problem” during the contested period instead of directing the bulk water supplier to conduct an immediate testing, which MIWD had the right to do under the BWSC.
It further noted that pursuant to said instruction, they tried to correct the color quality by adjusting the chlorine content and chemical of the water. However, Flo Water’s chemist advised against increasing the chlorine content and chemical of the bulk water just to improve the color quality because it would result in the failure of other water quality standard parameters and would ultimately be detrimental to the health of MIWD costumers.
“Thus, Flo Water does not accept your position that it was just and proper to deduct payment from April 2019 billing because of its alleged failure to inform MIWD of the true condition of water delivered. Flo Water has no such obligation under the BWSC and, even without such obligation, MIWD was duly informed of the true and correct condition of the product water,” Flo Water’s legal team added.
Flo Water asserted that the change of color of water product was due to force majeure.
It noted that during the contested period, Universal Robina Sugar and Renewable Division released waste products into the river which was the source of Flo Water’s Water Treatment Plant (WTP).
Coupled with the very low level of river water due to the El Niño, Flo Water’s product water failed to pass the color category of the water quality standard test during the said period. Nevertheless, the water passed all other categories of the quality standard test, including bacteriological test, thus, the water delivered was safe for human consumption.
Flo Water’s legal counsel insisted that its client is entitled to claim an exemption from damages and penalties as the discoloration was attributable to the waste disposal not of its own making and the El Niño.
Force majeure is defined under Article X of the BWSC as “any event or circumstance or a combination thereof that wholly or partially prevents or unavoidably delays any party in the performance of its obligations under this Agreement, but only to the extent that such events and circumstances are not within ‘reasonable control, directly or indirectly, of the affected party and could not have been avoided even if the affected party had taken reasonable care.”
Josephine Ilaguison, OIC plant manager of Flo Water’s WTP, said having high concentrated (with waste) river water is now the biggest hurdle of water treatment.
She explained that if the water level is low due to El Niño, there is an increase in nutrient loading as a result of human activity known as cultural eutrophication and this can led to an undesirable growth of algae.
Plus, she said, the disposal of waste from the different plants particularly from Universal Robina-Sugar and Renewable Division, the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center, among others, had created a breadth of problems on the treatment process of the river water.
“In the absence of El Niño (like in the past years), water treatment was not a major obstacle as the high level of the river water serves as a good diluent to the various types of wastes that are being disposed to the river,” Ilaguison said in her letter explaining to Flo Water’s president Rogelio Florete Jr.
“What happened in the past week, that there was a failure to meet the required color standard, was not within our complete and total control because the condition of the river at that time and even up to this day largely due to El Niño and by the parties that dispose their waste to the river,” she added./PN