Desalination plants ‘to push through’

warning. Melquiades Feliciano, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s appointee to the MCWD board, says they want to review the desalination projects because they believe these will only drive water rates up. / ARKEEN LARISMA
warning. Melquiades Feliciano, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s appointee to the MCWD board, says they want to review the desalination projects because they believe these will only drive water rates up. / ARKEEN LARISMA

THE Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) will push through with three water desalination projects to address the lack of water in some parts of its franchise area.

The move defies the order of the camp of retired army general Melquiades Feliciano, who earlier ordered the projects stopped for further review.

MCWD board chairman Jose Daluz III had questioned Feliciano’s authority to come up with the resolution, saying it was not even legal.

Feliciano told SunStar Cebu on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, they approved the resolution to halt the desalination projects in Barangay Inayawan in Cebu City and Barangays Canjulao and Marigondon in Lapu-Lapu City during their first board meeting last Oct. 31.

Feliciano, lawyer Aristotle Batuhan and businessman Nelson Yuvallos were appointed by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to replace Daluz, Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno in the board of directors on that day. Rama also renewed the appointments of incumbent board members Danilo Ortiz and Earl Bonachita that day.

Also on Tuesday, MCWD issued a statement signed by general manager Edgar Donoso in which the water district, citing the Government Procurement Reform Act, said there is no legal basis for MCWD to halt procurement processes, “especially when such actions would directly impact the delivery of essential services to the public.”

Donoso reiterated the decision of MCWD employees to maintain the status quo, and without the acknowledgement of the Local Water Utilities Administration, the Rama-appointed board “does not possess the legal mandate” to enact directives affecting the operations of the water district.

In a previous interview with SunStar Cebu, Feliciano said they wanted to review the three projects, citing potential harm to consumers.

Bidding conducted

Despite the resolution, the water district pushed through with the bidding of the water desalination project in Inayawan last Nov. 14.

The project in Inawayan is expected to produce 30 million liters per day and will supply water to the south of Cebu City and parts of Talisay City. The facility is targeted to be completed in one year.

The projects in Marigondon and Canjulao, though, are still in the pipeline.

The bidding for the Inayawan project was supposed to take place on Nov. 7, but Feliciano said some members of the bids and awards committee were not present.

“They did not follow it (resolution), and they continued to approve the other two projects… They subsequently approved even though we have this resolution already,” Feliciano said.

Feliciano said that if the water district pushes through with the projects, it will result in higher water rates.

Daluz, for his part, echoed Donoso’s sentiments, saying the issuance of the resolution to stop the projects was illegal.

“They have no authority. What authority are they banking on?” he said on Tuesday.

Water rate hike

Over the weekend, MCWD, headed by Daluz, announced that the water rate for commercial and industrial consumers would go up 100 and 200 percent, respectively, starting Dec. 1.

On Monday, Nov. 20, Kelie Ko, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, asked the water utility to hold off on its plan to raise water rates given the current economic challenges and uncertainties.

Ko also urged MCWD to hold a public consultation.

Daluz said he will be meeting with the business community next week to discuss the matter.

Feliciano said his group will discuss it during their next board meeting next week.

Mayor Rama has told an online program that they will make an announcement in relation to the water rate hike in the coming days. / JJL, WBS, EHP

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