power and water

Cebu water district resists as Local Water Utilities Administration appoints new chief

John Sitchon

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Cebu water district resists as Local Water Utilities Administration appoints new chief

CONFLICT. The power struggle in the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) continues in April 2024.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

The power struggle in Cebu’s water district continues after the Local Water Utilities Administration appoints another interim officer-in-charge for the Metropolitan Cebu Water District

CEBU, Philippines – The Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) announced in a social media post on Monday evening, April 22, that it would continue to recognize the board faction led by lawyer Jose Daluz III, ignoring the Local Water Utilities Administration’s (LWUA) new appointee for the water firm’s interim officer-in-charge.

“The Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) remains firm in its stance on the status quo and will continue to recognize only the current Board of Directors (BOD), comprised of Chairman Jose Daluz III, Vice Chairman Miguelito Pato, Secretary May Seno, and General Manager Edgar H. Donoso,” the MCWD said.

In March, LWUA administrator Jose Salonga enforced a takeover of the water district, citing MCWD’s high non-revenue water (NRW) rates and failure to fulfill its obligations to the water administration.

On April 12, LWUA appointed lawyer John Dx Lapid as the new general manager of the water district following the suspension of Donoso. Lapid later resigned on April 16, stating in a now-edited Facebook post that he was “being used for politics”.

This time, the LWUA has appointed another lawyer for the job. 

“In view of the 90-day preventive suspension of MCWD General Manager Edgar Donoso, the LWUA-installed Interim Board of Directors has designated Atty. Joselito Thomas P. Baena as interim Officer-in-charge,” a statement posted on the Cebu City Public Information Office’s (PIO) social media page read.

Since May 2023, the MCWD has been embroiled over the quarrel between Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama and Daluz. Both parties have exchanged allegations on the “mismanagement” of the water district and attempts to privatize MCWD.

In MCWD’s statement, they said that all of the water firm’s managers and employees would strictly adhere to directives from the Daluz-led board and Donoso. 

They stressed that the organization would safeguard its office premises against any potential intrusions, comply with proper government regulations, and uphold its charter as stated in Presidential Decree No. 198.

In a statement on April 16, the MCWD alleged that Lapid and Cebu City government officials “invaded” the MCWD main building, harassed security personnel and forced their way into the general manager’s office on the evening of April 15.

“We have implemented increased security measures to prevent unauthorized access by non-MCWD personnel. Access for consumers is restricted solely to the Customer’s Area on the ground floor,” the MCWD said.

Paradigm shift

Baena told Rappler on Monday afternoon, April 22, that he had just received the offer to be the interim board’s appointed officer-in-charge and accepted it on the same day.

According to the lawyer, the appointment would only be for the duration of Donoso’s 90-day preventive suspension which was implemented by LWUA on April 12.

In a statement posted on Cebu City PIO’s social media page, Baena said that his first order of business would be to “stabilize the situation” and to coordinate with MCWD officers and employees, and other stakeholders.

“The focus should be on how we can mitigate the effects of El Niño and the water crisis. There’s time for everything but right now our focus should be on the real problem at hand,” Baena told Rappler.

Baena also shared in the statement that he plans to reach out to barangay officials and community leaders in urban and upland areas to address challenges in water supply. 

As of this writing, around 50,000 households, mostly in Cebu City, are experiencing severe water shortages due to some dams operating at half capacity. 

“Our priority is to bring calmness and reason, to bring some positive energy for a paradigm shift,” Baena said. – Rappler.com

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