November 30, 2022

A group of owners of water refilling stations in Baguio City is protesting an advisory from the Department of Health-Cordillera which included water refilling stations among those that are required to apply for or renew their operational permit.

Atty. Nellie M. Olairez, president of the Baguio Association of Purified and Mineral Water Refillers Inc. (BAPMWR), told reporters on June 23 the DOH requirement is illegal because it is mandating them to secure a permit that is not required by law.

She cited the Sanitation Code of the Philippines which provides, among other things, that no water supply source shall be operated for drinking purposes without an operational permit issued by the regional health director. The issuance of such permit is subject to the submission of inspection report of completed construction works and complete disinfection of the system from the local health office, inspection report verifying completeness of construction works and disinfection from the regional and/or provincial sanitary engineer; and result of the water sampling and testing by a DOH-accredited water analysis laboratory.

Olairez said water refilling stations are different from water supply systems. They do not source their own water supply but are concessionaires of Baguio Water District, a public water system, and therefore they as water refilling stations should not be required to secure an operational permit.

She also cited ordinances passed by the city council that govern the operation of water refilling stations, and a ruling of then mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. and the Local Drinking Water Quality Monitoring Committee on Jan. 24, 2007 that only the city’s existing requirements and requirements set by Water Code of Baguio, should be enforced by virtue of the devolution of powers functions to local government units, including over its local water sector, under the Local Government Code of 1991.

With that, it was decided that the city government shall be the one to issue sanitary permits to water refilling stations in the city that have complied with the city’s requirements.

The DOH-CAR through its Regulation, Licensing, and Enforcement Division issued RLED Advisory 2021-015 on May 27, 2021 reminding all environmental and occupational health service providers (EOHSP) on the schedules for the application and renewal of operational permits or environmental sanitation clearance at the DOH regional office.

The advisory is addressed to owners of water refilling stations and water supply systems, desludgers, crematory/memorial parks, and provincial/city sanitary inspectors of all municipalities/cities/provinces in the Cordillera.

The advisory, signed by DOH-Cordillera Director Ruby C. Constantino, stated appropriate sanctions will be implemented by the concerned local authority to all EOHSPs without authorization based on the Sanitation Code of the Philippines.

“It appears that the DOH has other interpretations. We consider this (order) as some kind of disobedience to the city authorities,” Olairez said.

Olairez said what is required of them is a certificate of potability signed by the City Health Services Office, which is one of the requirements for the issuance of a sanitary permit.

“If this order of DOH to require us to get operational permit will help us improve our services, we will not object. But we are being subjected to corrupt practices by making out of us, not by DOH as a whole but by some people there who make us undergo the operational permit for monetary considerations,” she added. 

Shyra Grageda Reyes, BAPMWR vice president for internal affairs, said what they are against is the duplication of requirements because they are already complying with those set by the city government.

“When you look at the DOH requirements, it is practically the same, plus an additional expense of attending a water operator course seminar in University of the Philippines Manila imposed by the DOH, which could be handled here in the city by recognized experts,” Reyes said.

Olairez said they are willing to conduct a dialogue with the DOH and iron out their concern, but if necessary, the group will go to the court to clarify the issue. – Hanna C. Lacsamana