Espinoza: Why invest in expensive desalinated water?

Espinoza Free Zone
Espinoza Free ZoneFile photo

The show cause orders of Atty. Joey Daluz, MCWD chairman, on lawyers Danilo Ortiz and Earl Bonachita, directors of the MCWD Board, for their failure to attend the two board meetings only opened (certainly not a can of worms) to the eyes of the public the three water desalination projects, pardon my ignorance, that were not made known to the public before.

On Nov. 20, 2023, Daluz sent the orders to Ortiz and Bonachita for them to explain their failure to attend the scheduled regular and special board meetings on Nov. 6 and Nov. 13, despite their receipt of the agenda, and to explain why they attended the “unauthorized” meetings in the office of the Board of Directors “together with other persons” on Nov. 7 and Nov. 17.

In their joint reply, Ortiz and Bonachita questioned the legitimacy of Daluz’s chairmanship of the MCWD and his authority in ordering them to explain their absence. Ortiz and Bonachita referred to the order of Mayor Mike Rama dated Oct. 31 that terminated the appointments of Daluz, Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno, thereby replacing them with Melquiades Feliciano, Aristotle Batuhan and Nelson Yuvallos.

Ortiz and Bonachita did not only recuse in their reply to the show cause orders of Daluz, but they also further pointed out matters that we, the public, were not fully aware of, like the inevitable increase of the water rates in the years to come.

According to Ortiz and Bonachita, the camp of Daluz did not provide them with the water district’s financial statement showing its fiscal status. They were only provided with bare financial summaries. This happened after they questioned the unexpected decision of the water district to increase water rates for industrial and commercial consumers starting Dec. 1.

Ortiz and Bonachita also oppose the three desalination bulk water projects that Daluz and his allies have aggressively pushed for. These are the Cebu City South (Inayawan) Desalinated Water Seawater Project and the Marigondon and Canjualo Bulk Water Supply Projects.

Rama appointed MCWD board chaired by retired army general Feliciano ordered these projects stopped for further review. But Daluz, in a previous statement, said these bulk water projects will push through and the bidding of the Inayawan water desalination project was conducted on Nov. 14. Daluz bragged that the Inayawan project could generate 30 million liters of desalinated water per day that will supply the south of Cebu City as well as Talisay City.

But Bonachita and Ortiz claimed that for these three bulk water projects alone, MCWD must pay about P67 billion over 29 years, or from 2025 to 2054. They are apprehensive that the burden of paying these costs would be passed on to the consumers. Ortiz and Bonachita emphasized that there are alternative solutions to the desalinated bulk water supply that are cheaper.

The alternative measures that Ortiz and Bonachita mentioned include the reduction of the Non-Revenue Water that has already overwhelmed the tolerable threshold of 20 percent for the past three years and the wasted water due to leaking of pipes or some other reasons.

They said MCWD could divert its resources and funds to the harvesting and storing of rainwater; enhancing MCWD’s water facilities; construction of mini-dams and impounding sites; importation of surface water from another province with abundant supply; treatment of recycled water; installation of service pipes to unserved and under-served areas; and many more.

I could not agree more to the alternatives that Bonachita and Ortiz suggested since we know for a fact that there are available natural water resources in the northern and southern towns of Cebu that MCWD could invest in. So, why invest in costly desalinated water?

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