METROPOLITAN Cebu Water District chairman Jose Daluz III has to consult the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) for guidance on the appropriate actions to take against two members of the water utility’s board of directors (BOD), as he defended himself against allegations hurled at him by these two members.
Daluz had sent show cause orders (SCOs) to lawyers Earl Bonachita and Danilo Ortiz for failing to attend scheduled regular and special board meetings as well as for attending “unauthorized” meetings.
Daluz also denied the allegations made by Bonachita and Ortiz that he is “aggressively” pushing for the approval of three water desalination projects.
“Do they think I can influence the board? Their accusations that we are pushing for desalination are false. Of course, we push for desalination, but that underwent the bidding process. How can they say that I am ‘aggressively’ pushing when all we are doing is direct?” he said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
He said the only thing they said is they had agreed with the desalination plant and they were to establish the areas where the plants could be placed, emphasizing it is the management who would process everything and they (the board) would only approve.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, Daluz said the actions of Bonachita and Ortiz have “deprived” the board of representations from the educational and civic sectors.
Next course of action
“We will ask LWUA for the next course of action. Do we go ahead with only three members? Or are we going to ask for another appointment of two?” Daluz said in a mix of Cebuano and English, referring to himself, Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno, whom Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama fired and replaced with retired military general Melquiades Feliciano, lawyer Aristotle Batuhan and businessman Nelson Yuvallos last Oct. 31.
Daluz said the SCOs were intended to put on record the reasons of the two members for not attending the meetings.
Regarding their joint reply, Daluz said he anticipated Bonachita and Ortiz would align themselves with Rama’s appointed BOD.
However, regarding their allegations that he, Pato and Seno “benefited” when the late mayor Edgardo Labella appointed them to the board after firing BOD members, he said Bonachita and Ortiz are wrong. He said Rama’s appointment of Feliciano, Batuhan and Yuvallos was in “violation of every law whether moral or legal” compared to his appointment.
Meanwhile, Daluz said he believes in the phrase “water is life,” but this is only applicable to residential consumers. Water for commercial and industrial consumers is an operating expense, he said.
Last Nov. 18, Daluz announced that MCWD will raise water rates of commercial and industrial consumers starting Dec. 1, sparing residential customers.
However, Daluz said the increase was not implemented pending the approval of the LWUA.
Until then, he said he will meet members of the business sector to discuss the matter with them.
The current rates for consumers -- residential, commercial and industrial -- for the first 10 cubic meters of water consumed is P15.20 per cubic meter. In the proposed increase, based on the LWUA’s prescribed rate, it will be double for commercial and triple for industrial consumers.
In their joint reply, Bonachita and Ortiz alleged that for the three bulk water projects, MCWD will end up paying P67 billion over 29 years from 2025 to 2054, and the burden will be passed on to the consumers.
“Mao bitaw nangayo mi’g (That’s why we are asking for an) increase (in water rates),” Daluz said.
He said MCWD has spent billions on its projects, including desalination plants, which are really expensive.
Bonachita and Ortiz had suggested alternative measures to desalination that include reducing non-revenue water (NRW), to which Daluz agreed, saying that MCWD has been addressing the issue.
“We have constantly replaced worn-out pipes… We have increased the personnel on pipe detection and repair,” Daluz said.
He said there are several factors that contribute to NRW, which include the amount of free water they are giving to fire departments.
“The MCWD and the board are allocating more in our budget for solving our NRW. In fact, for the last three years the second biggest allocation is for NRW reduction aside from expansion,” he said.