Rama: Proposed water rate hike ‘unreasonable’; MCWD: It’s needed

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has called for a review of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD’s) plan to impose additional water tariffs on July 1, 2023.In a statement Thursday, July 14, 2022, Rama called MCWD’s proposed 60 percent planned increase “abrupt” and “rather unreasonable,” given that Cebu is still recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and recent calamities.“I ask the MCWD Board to further review its planned imposition of new tariff and consider seeking adjustments, only if it must, on a staggered basis to spare the consumers any adverse effects until 2025,” said Rama.Rama also directed the City Council to conduct a public hearing so consumers can speak out about the planned increase.MCWD, however, said Thursday that it was seeking the “minimal water tariff adjustment” to sustain its operations as it had not adjusted its rates since Jan. 1, 2015 and it had spent billions of pesos since on water expansion and rehabilitation projects and operational expenses.On Wednesday, MCWD announced that it would increase its water rate by 60 percent in July 2023, with a further 10 percent adjustment in 2024.At present, MCWD collects from residential connections a minimum water fee of P152 for the first 10 cubic meters of water consumed or P15.20 per cubic meter.Desalination, damRama, however, asked MCWD to keep rates reasonable by making projects like desalination available to all interested suppliers so it can choose “the best reasonable offer.”He described desalination as just a temporary solution to solve the water supply problem.According to Rama, building a dam in the city to collect rain would solve the water crisis and lower the rates for consumers.Rama debunked claims that building a dam would be very expensive, saying if the project had been realized a long time ago, “the cost would not be as many billions that it will cost today.”“Desalination projects that may seem cheap against a dam are just pocket solutions that do not last long. A dam lasts generations,” he added.The mayor has also instructed the City Agriculture Office and the Department of Engineering and Public Works to pursue the construction of “gabion dams” in the hinterlands.Rama also urged residents to install cisterns at home to help conserve water while ensuring that these do not become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.In a statement Thursday, MCWD said the average household connected to MCWD normally consumes 21 cubic meters of water a month, for a water fee of P399.80 or a total bill of P430.99 including other charges of P91.19 that covers franchise tax, power cost adjustment (PCA) and purchased water adjustment (PWA).With the proposed adjustment, the same household would pay a water fee of P543.68 or a total bill of P561.90 including franchise tax of P10.87 and PWA of P7.35. PCA is already incorporated in the water fee of the proposed adjusted rates.In July 2024, the same household would have a total bill of P617.36.But for households that consume only an average of seven cubic meters of water per month, their total bill would rise only from the present P183.17 a month to P250.21 a month in 2023.CheapestDaluz said MCWD’s potable water is sold at about P.040 per liter, “the cheapest” compared to other household utilities like electricity at P13 per kilowatt-hour, cellphone load at P600 per month, Internet bill at P1,200 a month or bottled water at P20 per liter.He said from 2015 to the present, MCWD has spent P2.1 billion for expansion and rehabilitation projects to serve its consumers better and another P12 billion for operational expenses.One of its major projects is the P1.1 billion Lusaran Bulk Water Project expected to deliver 15,000 cubic meters of water per day by September 4 this year. It will benefit residents of Barangays Busay, Lahug, Apas, Camputhaw and Capitol Site, as well as nine mountain barangays that are not yet served by MCWD.MCWD reminded the public that during the Covid-19 lockdowns, it had suspended water service disconnections and allowed partial payment of bill arrears. Thus, for the past seven years, it had just been absorbing the increasing operational expenses and purchased water costs ranging from P25 to P32 per cubic meter.“We have been absorbing the increasing operational costs and our reserve funds are already depleted,” Daluz said. “We really need this adjustment in order to continue with our operation.”The government-owned and –controlled corporation and non-profit entity does not receive funds from the local and national government, Daluz said.MCWD currently lacks 330 million liters or 330,000 cubic meters of water supply per day to accommodate the needs of the consumers in its franchise area.The water district currently produces 232 million liters of water per day (MLD), which is short of the needed water supply of around 600 MLD, forcing consumers unserved by MCWD to get their water supply from private suppliers who have their own wells, or buy water elsewhere at higher prices.MCWD serves Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Talisay City, and the towns of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela and Cordova.In the next 10 years, MCWD said, the demand in its franchise area will rise to around 900 MLD as proponents of reclamation projects in its franchise area–a 100-hectare reclamation project in Talisay City, 170-hectare project in South Road Properties (SRP 2), 100 hectares in Mandaue City, and 3,500 hectares in Cordova–have already informed MCWD about their water supply needs. (with CTL)