AROUND 63 homeowners of a subdivision in Barangay Basak, Lapu-Lapu City have sought the government’s intervention over the rate the developer is charging them for water that is 2,200 percent higher than the water rate of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), for supply that is intermittent as well.
In a letter, homeowners of Sunberry Homes Sudtonggan asked the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development in Central Visayas (DHSUD 7) on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, to investigate the “disproportionate” P350 per cubic meter rate charged to them by the management of Sunberry Homes Inc.
However, the developer said the rate it charged was warranted and did not even take into account the other expenses it was incurring to ensure the homeowners’ water supply.
Engineer Antonio Dosado, one of the complainants, told SunStar Cebu Wednesday, March 22, that the management reportedly failed to tap a steady water supply from MCWD for its failure to comply with the standard equipment.
Dosado said they have been supplied with domestic water from two main sources to compensate for the shortage, one of which is from the developer’s private deep well in the subdivision while the other is from a third-party water distributor.
In their letter, the homeowners said the deep well is “occasionally murky in form and contains foreign articles during use,” while the supply from the third-party water distributor has been deemed “safe for use, however, has been billed us for P350 per cubic meter,” which they noted as disproportionate compared to MCWD’s P15.20 per cubic meter.
An official of Sunberry Homes Inc., who asked not to be named, explained Wednesday that the P350 per cubic meter was billed to the homeowners since the developer had no choice but to get clean water supply from third-party suppliers.
She said they initially applied for water supply from MCWD; however, the latter said it had no available water supply or source yet in that area.
They took the initiative to supply the residents with water from a deep well but opted to look for third-party suppliers instead due to its bad water quality.
The management said the water supply from third-party suppliers did not come from deep wells, adding that it is clean and safe although it costs much.
At least two deliveries are made per day to make sure that they do not run out of water supply.
The management stressed that only 30 percent of the total cost of water sourced from third-party suppliers are billed to the homeowners, saying they are subsidizing the 70 percent—including the administration fees such as electricity cost during distribution of water, manpower in charge, and weekly cleaning of the water tank—just to ensure the convenience of the residents.
The homeowners also complained about the management’s scheduled daily water interruption from 2 to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. that started last March 15, which a March 14 advisory to them said would go on “until further notice.”
In response, the management said they are doing this amid their ongoing evaluation on the water system in the subdivision since they noted a huge difference in terms of cubic meters used from how much they ordered or discrepancies on record.
The management emphasized that the P350 is not fixed, saying the rate could go down depending on the result of their water system audit.
It clarified that its equipment is of MCWD standards but stressed that some may already have issues since it takes years to construct houses due to the number of processes required.
During the scheduled water interruption, their technical team is checking the capacity of the meters as well as possibilities of leaking.
They said the homeowners were already aware that they had no water supply from MCWD when they moved in.
But the management said they are glad that MCWD advised them early this month that they can now apply for a water line.
With this, the management applied for the temporary bulk meter water.
At least 15 homeowners reportedly went to their office in the Cebu Business Park last week, to whom they tried to explain and make them understand about the bills.
But the management said homeowners may not have understood or been contented with their explanation.
Sunberry said they recently released the bills for five months from October 2022, adding that they were still looking into possible means of billing them at lower prices.
The management said the homeowners should have been grateful to them instead, adding that it is they who paid for the water ahead, not minding when they could get their money back.
They said the homeowners only learned about the P350 per cubic meter rate this week or upon the release of the bills for five months.
But Dosado said there are other homeowners who received bills for months even when they had not yet occupied their units or even if their units had not yet been turned over to them.
The homeowners sought the following interventions from the DHSUD: conduct a general inspection of the subdivision’s water system, drainage system, and window chimney of the restroom in every household to check if the developer followed the minimum guidelines set by the DHSUD on the construction of the houses; verify the issuance of the project’s development permit despite the absence of a stable water supply; inspect the appropriateness of the deep well containing the distributed water among the homeowners; and investigate the “disproportionate amount” billed to the homeowners for the provision of water from a third-party water distributor.
SunStar Cebu reached out to DHSUD on the matter, but it had yet to respond as of press time on whether it had already received the complaint.
However, a copy of the complaint signed by the homeowners shows that it was sent to the DHSUD 7 on Tuesday, March 21, and received by the department on the same date.