EDITORIAL: City Hall’s water agenda

The City Council last week approved a resolution empowering the city administration to go ahead with a plan to apply for water rights to the city’s main water sources, the Montible and Lapu-Lapu Rivers in Barangay Irawan.

This resolution opens up a range of questions about city hall’s overall plan to address the city water needs, the exact role it wants to take, the nitty gritty of how this can be done, and most importantly how it will benefit the common good.

If such a plan comes to fruition, it will be a major shakedown of the status quo in the city’s water service. Essentially, the city government having sole access to the water sources will diminish, if not totally erase, the central role currently being played by the City Water District (CWD) in the production and distribution of water to city consumers.

With bulk water supply under city government control, the existing CWD, also a government entity, will have to be compelled to purchase from them or to develop its own water sources; or the city government may put up its own supply and distribution infrastructure and offer consumers a lower price, in effect rendering the CWD irrelevant and useless.

On various occasions, CWD officials have confided to the local press the difficulties they have been encountering trying to secure a SEP clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) for their own expansion project that involves getting access to the Montible source and wrapping up a loan deal with their bank for financing.

Whether the PCSD is deliberately blocking the CWD plans at the behest of the City which enjoys a seat in the Council is a matter that invites speculation. But its chair, Governor Jose Alvarez, has not inhibited himself from taking interest in ensuring that the city’s water service is in better hands. He even made it a condition for continuing his political support to incumbent mayor Lucilo Bayron, in a recent local interview.

The city government owes it to the public and to all water consumers to lay down its overall plans and how it will make things better for every household that is connected to the water tap, including industrial consumers. So far, the deliberations in the City Council has offered little information on what these plans are and how they stand in scrutiny.

The main question that needs to be answered is whether the water supply will be adequate and reasonably priced under a new system that City Hall plans to usher in.  It is probably even merely consequential if the water service will be eventually bidded out and privatized or City Hall will put up its own equivalent of the present Water District.

The public simply needs to know, and be forewarned.

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