RECOGNIZING the need for water supply in Cebu as pointed out by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last Wednesday, a Capitol consultant acknowledged an “unserved and growing demand.”

But lawyer Rory Jon Sepulveda, consultant on information and revenue generation, also said addressing the water problem is now the thrust of the Provincial Government.

During her visit, the President said that since Cebu is the number one destination for foreign tourists in the Philippines, it should have a stable water supply aside from its world-class amenities.

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Sepulveda pointed out the bulk of the sectoral development programs, projects and activities for 2010, as stated in the Annual Investment Program, involves water supply development. The funds set aside for it amount to P200 million.

If the Cebu Bulk Water Supply Project (CBWSP) proposal for a joint investment with Cebu Province is finalized, it will serve as the pilot program for the province.

Under the unsolicited proposal, Manila Water will supply 35 million liters per day (mld) of potable bulk water, sourced from the Luyang River of the Municipality of Carmen.

“In principle, we have accepted their interest. We are in the process now of coming up with an agreement and this will be subjected to a (competitive) Swiss challenge,” Sepulveda said.

He added there are still areas to consider, like equity sharing and which entity or vehicle will operate the project.

The Capitol is also considering other untapped water sources that have commercial viability in Toledo City and the towns of Tuburan, Badian and Barili.

The CBWSP will be implemented under the Joint Investment Guidelines issued by the Provincial Board.

The proposal includes no “take or pay” provision and specifies the turnover of all the joint investment company’s assets to the Province once the initial 25-year cooperation period has lapsed.

The statement further said the joint investment proposal aims to replicate the improvements that Manila Water made in the East Zone, as a concessionaire of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewage System. It also intends to help alleviate the “critical over-extraction” of groundwater in Cebu.

Sepulveda pointed out there are areas in Metro Cebu that are not served by a water utility, like some areas of Mactan. Some businesses there have resorted to desalinization.

“So, there is a demand for potable water and some of this is unserved,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

“If Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia will be given a new mandate and also a full mandate from the Provincial Board, one major infrastructure concern of the governor will be water, especially bulk water generation and transmission,” he added.

In the past, he said, the bulk of the money went to the construction of provincial roads, schools and bridges. (RSA)