Water bill to rise but 'no rate hike'

MCWD CHAIRMAN Jose Daluz III.
MCWD CHAIRMAN Jose Daluz III. Contributed

THE Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) will be having dialogues with various members of the business community to discuss the importance of the water rate adjustment, which will finally be implemented on April 1, 2024.

The rate adjustment will push through, according to Jose Daluz III, chairman of the MCWD board of directors.

“At least we have one month to talk to them, explain to them. Manghangyo mi nga this is not something nga nag-increase mi. It is just an application of the prescribed rate of LWUA since 2010,” Daluz said in an interview on Monday, Feb. 12.

He clarified that the water district is not jacking up rates, but is lifting the exemption on the Local Water Utilities Administration’s (LWUA) prescribed rate guidelines set way back in 2010.

He said MCWD did not need to seek LWUA’s approval; rather they only informed the agency that they would be imposing the prescribed rate.

Daluz said the rate adjustment, which will affect only commercial and industrial customers, was supposed to take effect last Dec. 1, 2023, but they decided to defer it due to the holiday season.

According to a SunStar Cebu report on Nov. 19, 2023, the current rates for consumers -- residential, commercial and industrial -- for the first 10 cubic meters of water consumed is P15.20 per cubic meter.

Beyond 10 cubic meters, or from 11-20 cubic meters, the rate is P16.80 per cubic meter; from 21-30 cubic meters, P19.80, and for usage exceeding 30 cubic meters, the rate is P48.40 cubic meter.

Under the LWUA’s prescribed rate, the first 10 cubic meters will be P30.40 per cubic meter for commercial consumers and P45.60 for industrial consumers.

Around 85 percent of the water district’s customers are residential, while the remaining 15 percent are composed of commercial and industrial customers.

Daluz also pointed out that the adjustment that was supposed to take effect last December is separate from the rate hikes that the MCWD had asked the LWUA to approve, which included the 60 percent that should have taken effect last July 1 and another 10 percent that was supposed to be implemented in the middle of this year.

Daluz said they will no longer pursue these rate hike petitions.

He said the MCWD will allot the whole month of March to engage in a dialogue with business chambers and establishments within its franchise jurisdiction after it was informed that the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) had submitted its position regarding the rate adjustment directly to LWUA.

SunStar Cebu reached out to CCCI president Charles Kenneth Co to comment on the matter, but he had yet to issue a statement as of press time.

Meanwhile, Daluz said the MCWD has no choice but to implement the LWUA’s prescribed rate because MCWD will soon be purchasing water from desalination plants in Barangay Mambaling in Cebu City, Barangay Opao in Mandaue City and Barangay Catarman in Cordova.

The desalination plant in Opao charges P73.86 per cubic meter. The ones in Mambaling and Catarman have yet to release their rates.

Daluz admitted that commercial and industrial customers will be paying more for their water after April, but the move is crucial to support the water district’s ongoing infrastructure support and projects that will ensure a sufficient supply of water in Metro Cebu.

Exemption

In 2010, Daluz said, MCWD asked for an exemption as a policy to stay competitive after the water district lost a case against Margarita Adala.

The loss prompted the earlier administration to uniformly charge its residential, commercial and industrial consumers, and not follow LWUA’s rate structure.

On July 4, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Adala to supply water to three sitios in Barangay Bulacao.

The ruling added that the MCWD has no “exclusivity” on water distribution in Metro Cebu, thus opening its operation to competition from private water suppliers.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama replaced MCWD board members Daluz, Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno last Oct. 31 with Melquiades Feliciano, Aristotle Batuhan and Nelson Yuvallos. But Daluz, Pato and Seno have refused to step down from their posts.

Feliciano is the chairman of the Rama-appointed board.

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