Cebu City

Clash in Cebu: Water district chairman defies Rama’s order to remove him

John Sitchon

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Clash in Cebu: Water district chairman defies Rama’s order to remove him

RESISTANCE. Lawyer Jose Daluz III, the chairman of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District gestures as he drives home a point.

Jose Daluz’s Facebook Page

Metropolitan Cebu Water District chairman Jose Daluz III accuses Cebu Mayor Michael Rama of 'clear usurpation of power'

CEBU, Philippines – Cebu Mayor Michael Rama has issued an order to remove the chairman of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) due to the board head’s absence from a crucial meeting focused on devising strategies to enhance the city’s water supply. But the MCWD chairman questioned and rejected the mayor’s action.

Rama sent the MCWD board a letter to demand that its directors recognize Miguel “Mike” Pato as their new chairman, replacing lawyer Jose Daluz III.

Local officials said Rama’s move, first announced on May 18, was a result of MCWD‘s lack of preparation ahead of the anticipated dry spell due to the looming El Nińo phenomenon which has been forecast by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) to start from June to August

In a news conference on Monday, May 22, the Cebu City Legal Office presented the mayor’s letter which ordered the MCWD’s board to acknowledge Pato, their vice chairman, as Daluz’s replacement.

“There was a unanimous omnibus motion to install Miguel Pato as the new chairman of the board of directors subject to formalities,” said City Legal Officer Jerone Castillo.

On May 16, Rama met with members of the board to discuss plans that would address Cebu City’s concerns over water supply, a meeting not attended by Daluz.

Castillo said Daluz’s absence prompted Rama to remove him as MCWD’s chairman, a decision based on recommendations of other city hall officials. 

Daluz, however, rejected Rama’s move as he maintained that the mayor had no authority to remove MCWD’s chairman.

He told Rappler on Tuesday, May 23, that he was uninvited despite local officials claiming that he was invited to the meeting with Rama.


In a Facebook post, Daluz argued that Rama had no legal personality in the first place to preside over an MCWD board meeting.

Daluz said Rama arrogated and appointed himself as the board chairman in that meeting, a “clear usurpation of power which exclusively belongs to the board.”

He argued that the MCWD, much like other water districts in the country, is considered an independent and autonomous corporate entity.

A former Cebu City administrator, Floro Casas Jr., agreed with Daluz and posted on his Facebook page a copy of a memorandum from the Department of Interior and Local Governance (DILG) to support Daluz’s assertion.

“Water districts are autonomous agencies independent of local governments. It should be best that they are allowed to operate with the least hindrance and interference from the local officials but with maximum support and assistance,” read DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2019-03.

The Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) rules also provide that local chief executives can only appoint the directors of the water district.

Staying put

In a statement on May 19, Daluz said he has continued to perform his responsibilities as the MCWD’s chairman despite city hall’s position.

“Regarding the preparations in addressing the potential challenges posed by El Nińo, it has been our unwavering commitment, under my leadership, to safeguard the welfare of the communities we serve,” part of his statement read.

Daluz told Rappler that the MCWD has been conducting several desalination operations to ensure that the public will have water to use during the anticipated El Nińo period. 

He said the MCWD was also working to increase Cebu’s water supply to meet the growing demands.

In December 2022, the water management solutions provider JE Hydro and Bio-Energy Corporation inaugurated its newest water treatment plant (WTP) in Barangay Lusaran, Cebu City.

“We have an additional 15,000 cubic meters of water kay niagas naman ang atong Lusaran plant (because water from our Lusaran plant has already flowed),” Daluz said.

He said they were also expecting more desalination plants, one from Cordova town and another from Mandaue City, to operate in the coming months.

MCWD has also set aside more than P158 million to rehabilitate pipelines and another P149 million for transmission and distribution line projects. During emergency cases, the MCWD has nine water trucks that can be used for water deliveries. –

John Sitchon is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.

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