SOME parts of Metro Cebu serviced by the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) will have an additional source of potable water, this time coming from the sea as a large-scale desalination plant in Cordova town in Mactan Island is expected to be completed in four months.
Around 20,000 households will no longer depend on water coming from mainland Cebu, MCWD said in a statement on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023.
On Thursday, Sept. 7, Vivant Corp. subsidiary Isla Mactan Cordova Corp. unveiled the main equipment of the desalination plant, which is located in Barangay Catarman.
MCWD Board of Directors chairman Jose Daluz III said in an interview on Friday said the project is under a joint venture agreement (JVA) with Vivant Corp.
The plant will be capable of producing 20 million liters per day (MLD), with the potential to expand to up to 50 MLD.
Vivant Infracore Holdings Inc. president and chief operating officer Jess Anthony Garcia told SunStar Cebu on Thursday, that the facility is expected to be fully operational by January.
An MCWD official said the plant can be considered as the first large-scale desalination plant in the country.
Garcia said seawater desalination will not only address the demand of water in Cebu but also address another concern, which is reverse osmosis, the process of using permeable membranes to remove salt and other minerals from seawater.
“At the final stage, there will be a remineralization system to ensure that the water coming out of the tap contains minerals that our bodies need,” Garcia said.
He said the product is clearer and cleaner compared to bottled water which can be purchased in any store.
Garcia said seawater desalination is a more sustainable source of potable water than tapping brackish groundwater sources or underground springs.
After the JVA with Vivant Corp. is formalized, Daluz said MCWD will allocate around P500 million to lay pipes in Mactan Island.
Daluz, however, was not able to provide a timeline for the installation and replacement of pipes.
Garcia, for his part, said MCWD will be responsible for supplying consumers with desalinated water products.
MCWD said on Friday that there is currently no contract in place between MCWD and Vivant Corp.
However, the legal framework is based on a joint venture, and the organization is still addressing the “deficiencies” pointed out by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.
Cebu City Hall had previously published a document dated Feb. 27, 2023, addressed to MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso. The document contained a request for an opinion and a contract review of MCWD’s bulk water supply projects in Cordova, and in Barangays Marigondon and Canjulao in Lapu-Lapu City.
A portion of Government Corporate Counsel Rogelio Quevedo’s opinion states that the action of the joint venture selection committee members in recommending the projects’ approval is “highly irregular and grossly inexcusable, tantamount to bad faith.”
MCWD said an increase of P150 to P200 per month per household, depending on water usage, is expected once MCWD begins distributing desalinated seawater.
MCWD also said that the cost of desalinated seawater is already included in the proposed water rate adjustment it has submitted to the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).
The request for the water rate adjustment was originally set to take effect on July 1; however, MCWD has not yet received a response from LWUA, as the administration’s board has yet to convene.
Garcia said the plant will not require a significant amount of manpower as it is semi-automated; however, he said the project will have a positive ripple effect on the economy indirectly.
Cordova Mayor Cesar “Didoy” Suan said on Thursday that he’s pleased the project is taking place in his municipality. He pointed out that hosting the facility will generate additional job opportunities for the local community.
“Gani karon pa lang, sa construction, daghan na gani kaayo ang nahatagan og trabaho para sa plumbing, welding, ug uban pa,” Suan said.
(Even now, in the construction stage, many people have been given jobs for plumbing, welding, etc.)
Daluz said the seawater desalination plant in Cordova can be considered the first of its kind in the country because it is the first plant that will have a capacity for large-scale production.
He said there are portable desalination plants operating in other parts of the country, mainly catering to hotels.
Garcia also said they are utilizing globally available equipment to ensure the facility meets international standards.
“We are getting the best of the best and highest quality equipment in order to give the Cebuanos the best quality water,” Garcia said.
He also assured that in terms of the potential environmental impacts of the facility’s operation, they have installed a system designed to minimize environmental issues.
“This project could have not started without an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and we have complied with all environmental standards required by the agency,” Garcia said.