Marawi family pays P100 for water daily in gov’t relocation site

Carmela Fonbuena
The contractor at the Sagonsongan relocation site has been drilling for deep wells but so far can't find enough water. Alternatives are now being considered but it may take time.

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – The doors of the homes were opened wide enough for one to get a full view of the interior of the tiny houses neatly arranged in the government relocation site in Barangay Sagonsongan in Marawi City.

It was a warm day at the “Summer Capital of the South,” a tag the city earned for its usually cool climate due to its high elevation. Rappler found 84-year-old Cacadia Ala Macaagir sitting by her door, with two electric fans directed at her.

Hindi na ako makalakad (I can’t walk anymore),” she said, complaining about her arthritis, when we asked how she was. 

She lost her home in Wawalayan, located right inside the battleground of the siege that dragged for 5 months last year. Macaagir, her daughter, son-in-law, and 4 grandchildren have been living with relatives in adjacent town Piagapo until they were given a temporary shelter in Sagonsongan in January.

Macaagir and her family have somehow rebuilt their lives. Her son-in-law, who used to sell slippers in the now destroyed Padian Market, is hawking his goods in temporary markets around the city. Macaagir’s daughter sells ice to neighbors at the relocation site.

They earned more back in Wawalayan, where they had a sari-sari store. But relief goods that come twice a month have been helping them get by. 

There’s one nagging problem in the relocation site: water supply. 

Maganda dito pero mahirap ang tubig. Walang tubig dito (It’s nice here but water supply is difficult. There is no water here),” Macaagir told Rappler. 

NO WATER. The temporary shelters are connected to water pipes, but the tanks are almost always empty. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

P100 for 5 containers of water

Reports of water supply issues prompted Rappler to visit Macaagir’s Area 4 in Sagonsongan.  

Macaagir’s household, composed of 7 people, pays P100 (around $2*) for a daily supply of 5 gallons of potable water. 

Five gallons or about 25 liters of water is only good for cleaning their faces in the morning, drinking, cooking, washing dishes, and for the important Muslim washing ritual they need to do when they pray 5 times a day.

They usually count on rain water to wash their laundry and take a bath. They also sometimes have to visit their relatives elsewhere to do this. 

Back in Wawalayan, the family paid P1,500 every month or about P50 a day for an ample supply of water, even for bath and laundry.

When Rappler visited the relocation site, the air was also heavy with the unpleasant smell of the sewers. It happens when the wind blows hard, according to the residents.

It’s not clear if this is caused by plumbing problems or insufficient water to flush out the household wastes.

Not enough water for deep wells

The contractors have been digging for deep wells but so far couldn’t find sufficient water to pump into the homes. They are now digging a 3rd site. 

Ang plano namin talaga ay deep well. In fact, may malaking water tank na doon. Tapos na. Kaya lang nga ang unang pagbutas hindi sufficient quantity ang tubig na nakuha,” Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr, manager of the Task Force Bangon Marawi Field Office, told Rappler.

(We planned to supply water through deep wells. In fact, there is already a big water tank there. But the initial digging didn’t yield a sufficient quantity of water.)

The government sometimes fills the tanks, allowing residents to get 15 minutes of water in their faucets. On those days, Macaagir’s family is able to fill 5 pails and some containers. If they are frugal, this supply can last for 3 days. 

Macaagir said it’s good if the tanks are filled once a week. 

The trucks are supplying many areas in Marawi, said Castro. “We have 8 water trucks na umiikot, daily ‘yan. Of course, it’s not only servicing Sagonsongan. May ibang evacuation centers din tapos may kaunting barangay na wala talagang tubig na sinusuplayan nila,” he said.

(We have 8 water trucks going around every day. Of course, it’s not only servicing Sagonsongan. There are other evacuation centers as well and a number of villages with no water at all that need to be supplied.)

Two alternatives

Castro said the contractors in Sagonsongan are still drilling deep wells to provide adequate water supply.

There are two alternative solutions if they fail to find a source underground, but it could take time.

“There are two other sources possible. Agus River is around 2.5 kilometers away. It could be a source. There’s another source – spring water. That’s around two kilometers away. Let’s see if it is of sufficient quantity,” Castro said.

Meanwhile, the costs are piling up for the residents. – Rappler.com 

*US$1 = P52