BAGUIO CITY – The character and self-interest of members of the city council was evident when local legislators extensively debated on which committee will have jurisdiction over the review and evaluation of the memorandum of agreement entered into between the city government and Kaltimex Energy Corporation Philippines, the winning bidder of the privatization of the city-owned Asin minihydro power plants, which was referred to the council for confirmation by Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
The debate among members of the council erupted when Councilor Richard A. Cariño questioned the unilateral action of vice Mayor Edison R. Bilog to refer the legal aspect of the agreement to the committee on laws chaired by the latter and the technical aspect of the agreement to the committee on public utilities chaired by Councilor Joel Alangsab.
Cariño said the action of Bilog to refer the matter to two committees is in violation of the internal rules and procedures of the city council that prohibit multiple committee in handling a certain issue when the matter should be clearly under the jurisdiction of the committee on laws.
However, Bilog said that his action allowing two committees to deal with the Asin contract is to prevent the council from being accused of railroading the approval of the same and to allow technical issues to be addressed but promised that multiple referrals will not be repeated in the future to prevent confusions among the council members.
Councilor Isabelo Cosalan, Jr. proposed a compromise by moving that the council be converted into a committee of the whole to review the Asin contract but the motion was voted down by members of the council who were also divided on whether to refer the matter to a single committee or uphold Bilog’s multiple committee referral.
Cariño argued the committee on laws is empowered by the internal rules of procedure of the council to review contracts entered into between the city government and other parties and that the same will be subsequently submitted for deliberations where all members of the council will be given the opportunity to raise their questions in terms of all aspects of the agreement.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda branded Bilog’s unilateral decision to make multiple committee referrals as a bad precedent that would be open to abuse and in turn create confusion among the councillors in the future once the same will be repeated.
For his part, Alangsab said his committee is willing to be the secondary committee to study the Asin contract and that he will closely coordinate with the main committee to be chaired by Cariño but the latter insisted that it is the committee on laws that has the sole jurisdiction on the matter.
Councilor Peter Fianza asserted there is a need for the council to revisit its rules in order to address the problem created by the multiple referral done by Bilog and that there must be consultations with the councillors before the presiding officers makes a decision on sensitive matters like the confirmation of the Asin hydro plant privatization contract.
Earlier, the city government gave Kaltimex Energy Corporation Philippines at least six months to comply with securing all available permits from concerned government agencies and host communities before the city will gave its approval for its full blast operation to avoid further complications in the future once it was not able to secure the required permits required by law. By Dexter A. See