Daluz camp ‘willing’ to meet with OIC GM

CONSULTATION ON CRISIS. Newly appointed Metropolitan Cebu Water District officer-in-charge general manager Joselito Thomas Baena (center) and Barangay Affairs Office head Vicente “Inting” Esmena (right) meet with San Antonio Barangay Captain Jojo Abcede (left) on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 to discuss, in Abcede’s words, the “water crisis” in his village in Cebu City. /
CONSULTATION ON CRISIS. Newly appointed Metropolitan Cebu Water District officer-in-charge general manager Joselito Thomas Baena (center) and Barangay Affairs Office head Vicente “Inting” Esmena (right) meet with San Antonio Barangay Captain Jojo Abcede (left) on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 to discuss, in Abcede’s words, the “water crisis” in his village in Cebu City. / JOJO T. ABCEDE FB PAGE

THE struggle over the management of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) continues, but the camp of Jose Daluz III, chairman of the board of directors suspended by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), voiced willingness to meet with the LWUA-appointed officer-in-charge general manager, but only “as a person,” not as a general manager.

This was what Daluz and LWUA-suspended general manager Edgar Donoso said following the statement of Joselito Thomas Baena that he planned to meet with the officials suspended by the LWUA, referring to the camp of Daluz and Donoso.

Meanwhile, the Cebu City Government reported that Baena, who was appointed OIC GM last Monday, April 22, 2024, had already visited 11 barangays and found them dissatisfied over the local water district’s handling of the effects of the El Niño phenomenon amid its failure to address their woes.

“As a person, maybe yes, but if he will claim to be a GM, under what authority?” said Donoso in an interview on “Beyond the Headlines,” SunStar Cebu’s online news and commentary program, on Wednesday, April 24.

In the same interview, Daluz said he wanted to hear Baena’s proposal to address the water problem amid the El Niño.

Daluz said should a meeting be held, it should be outside the MCWD building to avoid any confusion among the people.

“Second, we want to hear his proposal for El Niño, because that’s the immediate problem, but we will not talk about other things,” said Daluz in a mix of Cebuano and English.

The LWUA suspended Daluz and fellow board members Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno for six months last March 15 to make way for a probe into MCWD’s high non-revenue water (NRW), as well as their alleged failure to follow procurement laws, while Donoso was suspended for 90 days by the LWUA-installed interim board last April 12 for defying its request to turn over documents on the MCWD’s transactions.

The LWUA-installed interim board at the MCWD appointed Baena to serve as OIC GM during Donoso’s suspension.

However, Donoso and the Daluz-led MCWD board of directors do not recognize the LWUA’s authority to suspend them.

Low to no supply

According to the Cebu City Public Information Office (PIO) Wednesday, Baena had already visited Barangays Sambag 1, Sambag 2, Sta. Cruz, San Antonio, Tinago, Barrio Luz, Kamputhaw, San Nicolas Proper, Suba, Duljo Fatima and Pasil, where consumers were now “restless” as the MCWD had failed to explain the current situation to them.

Baena said most of the mentioned barangays have had no water for the past three days, while Pasil has had “zero” water supply for more than a month already.

In Barrio Luz, consumers complained that the MCWD prohibited them from getting water from the fire hydrant, according to the PIO report.

Aside from intermittent to no water supply experienced in these barangays, Baena also found that some consumers had a hefty water bill despite the unstable water supply.

Update needed

In a phone interview on Wednesday, MCWD information officer Minerva Gerodias confirmed that the 11 barangays mentioned by Baena were additional barangays that had been affected by the continuing deficit of water supply.

Gerodias said they would update the list of barangays to which the MCWD had provided water rations with the use of water tankers to include these 11 barangays.

As of April 17, the MCWD had listed only 12 barangays in three cities in its franchise area as having been “severely affected” by water shortages. These are Barangays Umapad, Opao, Alang-alang, Looc and Subangdaku in Mandaue City; Lorega San Miguel, Binaliw, San Jose, Talamban and Pit-os in Cebu City; and Cansojong and San Roque in Talisay City.

Gerodias added that they were managing their water supply well in order to distribute the water fairly.

Regarding the fire hydrants, Gerodias said they were regulating the number of fire hydrants from which people could extract water.

She said only fire hydrants equipped with meters would be accessible to the public, allowing the monitoring of the amount of water extracted.

“We will give them the areas where they can get water because if we allow them to draw water from just any hydrant, that will further increase our NRW,” Gerodias said in Cebuano.

NRW refers to the water produced and lost before reaching consumers. It can occur through leaks and damaged pipes and includes free water that the MCWD provides for firefighting purposes.

Last April 15, LWUA Administrator Jose Moises Salonga said MCWD’s NRW had been rising from 25.26 percent in 2020, to 29.04 percent in 2021, and then to 32.67 percent in 2022.

Gerodias said from the hydrants equipped with meters, water would be accounted for, but unbilled, which means this water would not be considered as NRW.

“Ang amo ra jud purpose is amo i-account ang tubig nga na-extract sa mga barangays,” Gerodias said.

(Our only purpose is to account for the water extracted by the barangays.)

She said this is the reason they encourage barangay officials to coordinate with the MCWD so that they can provide which hydrant is available for them.

Second OIC

Baena replaced John Dx Lapid, MCWD’s customer care division head, who was first appointed by the LWUA interim board as OIC GM last April 12. Lapid resigned from the post last April 16 after a series of events that included his being barred from entering the MCWD main office on April 15, his entry into the building later that night with 70 City Hall personnel, some of whom broke into Donoso’s office, and the halting of frontline customer services such as bills payment and reconnection requests on April 16 after the suspended MCWD officials claimed that the “invasion” of its main office had scared and confused their employees.

On Tuesday, his first day of work as OIC GM, Baena opted not to report physically to the MCWD main office building in downtown Cebu City to avoid causing another disruption of operations in the water district, after MCWD declared, on the day of his appointment, that it would maintain the status quo and prevent unauthorized access by non-MCWD personnel.

Upon learning this, Baena said, the LWUA instructed him to focus on the barangays and get a “first-person, on-the-ground assessment.”

Baena’s priorities, according to his interview on “Beyond the Headlines” on Tuesday, April 23, included meeting the officials suspended by the LWUA to resolve the issue on the regulator’s authority over them, as well as initiating a dialogue with the stakeholders, including the employees and the consumers, to identify problems in the local water district and how to resolve them.

With the behavior shown by Baena, Donoso thanked him for showing a “sign of respect and professionalism in handling this kind of crisis.”

“Basin di pud siguro na sya interesado pud. Medyo napugos lang pud guro siya. Nevertheless, pasalamaton ko niya sa mga lihok nga iyang gipakita pud (Maybe he’s also not interested in the role. Maybe he was pressured into it only. Nevertheless, I thank him for the actions he has shown),” said Donoso.

But Donoso said only the board of directors can appoint the GM and no one else.


Baena said the ongoing crisis at the MCWD management would be a challenge for him, with some issues he needs to face as OIC GM being to prevent a leadership vacuum at the MCWD and to ensure that consumers’ access to water supply remains unaffected.

“There is a lot of balancing act to do. How to accomplish the objectives of LWUA that is to look into the anomalies, to enforce the directive sa suspension ni Joey and Mr. (Edgar) Donoso but at the same time, to ensure nga wala’y disruptions,” the PIO report quoted Baena as saying.

According to the report, Baena has sought the help of MCWD’s retired employees and officials to help address the technical aspects of the LWUA’s probe.

Baena said MCWD continues to bar the LWUA-appointed interim board from entering the main office. / JJL / AML


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