Differences in political views may have tried to stop the water system project in Carmen town but in the end, the welfare of the Carmenanons has won with the help of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia who stepped in to settle the issue once and for all.
Since 2015, the northern Cebu town’s Luyang River has been the source of bulk water of the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) with 35 million liters supplied daily. Despite this, Carmen has endured a lack of water supply for years.
“Pagkadako nga sagpa – gikan sa lungsod sa Carmen ang tubig nga gihatod ngadto sa Metro Cebu apan walay tubig ang mga taga Carmen,” Garcia said in an open forum Friday, January 8 held at Carmen National High School.
In the forum, Garcia shared that during her campaign for the gubernatorial seat in 2019, she asked the Carmenanons of their concerns and was dismayed to learn that one of their problems was the water supply.
The governor recalled that the Manila Water Consortium (MWC) submitted its project proposal to the Province of Cebu in August 2009 after repeated failures to close a deal with MCWD for 10 years.
Winning the Swiss Challenge in 2011 versus Cebu Water Consortium, the project was then awarded to MWC. The company assured Garcia that the towns where the main pipe passes through will also be given water supply. These towns include Carmen, Danao, Compostela, Liloan, Consolacion, and even Mandaue City.
With that, the governor realized that the project will be beneficial to the Cebuanos. She agreed to their proposal in the condition that Carmen will be prioritized first among other local government units (LGUs).
On March 21, 2012, the Province of Cebu and the Manila Water Consortium, Inc. (MWCI) entered into a joint investment agreement (JIA) for the creation of Cebu Manila Water Development, Inc. (CMWDI), a joint investment company (JICO) for the construction and development of water supply facilities to deliver treated bulk water to Metro Cebu with an option to engage in retail supply by tapping the surface water source of Cantumog-Luyang River in Carmen.
Making true of her campaign promises
Upon her return as governor of Cebu in 2019, Garcia allotted a total of P49,065,121.29 for the construction of a new Level III waterworks system without any expense from Carmen LGU to address the town’s water problem, making true of her campaign promises.
“Kay ang saad angay tumanon, ako dayon gisultian ang (Provincial) Engineering (Office) paghimo mo’g program of work alang sa walo ka barangay didto sa Carmen. Nangayo ko’g budget gikan sa Provincial Board og nasugdan nato ang Phase 1 karon gipadayon ang Phase II,” she said.
Last December 10, the governor with Carmen LGU officials inaugurated the first phase of the project wherein communal faucets now supply water to the townspeople.
Garcia aims to have a Level 3 water system not just in Carmen but in the entire Province to ensure that every household gets their water supply right in their own homes.
Since 2019, a series of meetings were conducted where Gov. Garcia, Carmen public officials led by Mayor Carlo Villamor, and Manila Water officials discussed the water system project.
“In 2019 pa, nagsige na ta'g meeting kauban sa mayor og opisyales sa Carmen, kauban ang Manila Water sa dihang atong gi-decide asa mag-gikan ang tubig. Unta duna'y duha ka deep wells nga gisugdan na sa Manila Water. Ni-ingon ko stop it, adto ta’s main line, ngadto ta mukuha og tubig mismo sa linya gyud,” Garcia recalled.
From the proposed P8.50 per cubic meter, the governor haggled the water price to P5.80.
“Ni-ingon ko dili (referring to P8.50), unahon nato’ng katawhan ilabi na ang mga kabus, tabangan nato. So, nag-agreement na og mao to akong giingnan ang atong legal, pag-draft og Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) pagsabot mo sa munisipyo, CMWDI of which 49 percent ana ang Probinsya kay nag joint venture man mi sa Manila Water,” she said.
At that time, the Province was willing to turn over the Phase I of the waterworks system to Carmen LGU and have it operated by them, instead of an association or foundation, for clearer accountability.
Garcia even asked the local council to authorize their mayor to enter into a MOA with CMWDI.
But to her dismay, seven councilors did not authorize Villamor to sign the MOA’s original draft and instead, made their own which had “impossible” conditions such as one-year free water supply for all Carmen constituents and one-year maintenance costs to be taken care of by the Province.
“Nindot kayo paminawon noh, laliman ka, basta gusto ka magpagwapo, magpagwapa libre ang tubig. Wow! Apil sila kay constituents man pud. Naa ra ba’y contractor diha nga konsehal kadako raba og kunsumo ana’s tubig. Unsaon man na ron, libre pud? Well, I think there are ethical questions there,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the conditions stated in the councilors’ draft MOA are “onerous,” pointing out that what business venture would give their products for free for one year. The MOA was also already signed by the councilors.
“Pagkakita nako’s MOA ilang gihimo, bida, karon pa ko nakakita og MOA nga nag-una og pirma ang mga testigo, ang mga witness. Ug gimanduan na lang ang mayor, gimanduan ang gobernador, gimanduan ang CMWD pirma namo kay namirma naming mga witness. Ing-ana diay na?” she said.
“Mao man ilang gibalik-balik diba, kami namirma nami, ang nakadugay aning tubig kay wa nipirma ang mayor. Unsaon intawon pagpirma ana sa mayor, musugot kaha ang CMWD? 51 percent ana ang Manila Water, ang 49 sa Province, musugot kaha ko? Labihang alkansiha naman gani anang P5.80 og unya ipalibre pa gyud tibuok tuig?” Garcia stressed.
She said she also has to answer to Cebuanos from other LGUs if the one-year free supply will be allowed, considering that the funds used for the project are their taxes too.
Capitol to manage, operate the water system
Since majority of the councilors will not authorize Villamor to sign the original draft of the MOA, Garcia has decided to fully manage and operate the waterworks system in the town in accordance with Section 17 of the Local Government Code (LGC) which allows the Capitol to operate an inter-LGU waterworks system.
“Busa nakahukom ko og paminaw mo tanan, lakip na kadtong naninguha nga babagan kaning maong proyekto kay tungod namulitika mo. Inyo nasad gusto paantuson ang katawhan dinhi’s Carmen sa inyung mangil-ad nga politika,” the governor stated.
“Pinasubay sa LGC Section 17, mahimo nga mu-operate ang Probinsya ug usa ka inter-LGU waterworks system. Busa, dinhi sa Carmen ang Probinsya sa Sugbo maoy mu-operate og mu-maintain,” she said.
To implement this, the Capitol’s Economic Enterprise Council (EEC) passed a resolution creating an Inter-Local Government Unit Waterworks System that will manage and operate the water distribution all over the Province.
Garcia said she asked the Provincial Board’s support to adopt the EEC’s resolution in a special session on Wednesday, January 13.
The governor also refuted allegations that the Capitol is generating income out of the Cantumog-Luyang River in Carmen.
She clarified that the Province of Cebu did not receive a single centavo from the CMWDI since it started supplying water to MCWD. The Province invested P125 million to the joint venture.
The JIA is presently under dispute after MWCI’s “serious and material breach” to the terms and obligations in the said agreement.
However, the CMWDI continued its operation, despite the dispute between the Province and MWCI, as it has a juridical personality separate and distinct from that of its stockholders and members.
The breaches include change/increase of the project cost or Capital Expenditure (capex) from P702,000,000 to P1,003,000,000; change/increase of tariff rate from P13.95 per cubic meter to P24.59 per cubic meter; change/decrease of Project Internal Rate of Return (PIRR) from 19.23% to 12.30%; non-remittance to the Province of Cebu of its receivables from January 2015 to July 2019; and plowing back of the earned revenues to the capex of the JICO.
The governor also told the Carmenanons that a royalty, an amount paid to a third party or owner of a product, has been granted to Carmen LGU as the area where the water was taken.
Environmental lawyer Benjamin Cabrido, one of the Capitol consultants, said under Presidential Decree No. 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines, all waters belong to the state.
He explained that there is no statutory right for the LGU to demand for a royalty but because of Garcia’s insistence, it was granted to Carmen and was included in the JIA. The CMWDI then advanced P35 million as royalty to Carmen.
Some residents of Carmen asked where the P35 million is now and whether it would be deposited to a special account of the municipality.
In the forum, the governor showed that the P35 million was used for the construction of reinforced concrete grandstand of Carmen worth P20.2 million, concreting of the access roads in the town parks and plaza worth almost P5 million, and the improvement/extension of reinforced concrete grandstand worth P9.7 million.
As certified by Carmen municipal accountant and treasurer, the total expenses as of November 24, 2020 was P34.9 million, leaving a balance of around P8,944.97.
Garcia also clarified that even if the residents of Carmen have an existing debt to the previous water supply operator, they can still apply for a connection to the Province of Cebu’s water system because it is a separate entity.
Wilma Morales, 55, of Barangay Baring and Ranulfo Ybañez, 53 of Barangay Dawis Sur expressed their gratitude to the governor for the big help in addressing their years-long water problem.
With all of the help they received, Mayor Villamor said “hulog ng langit nga nibalik si Gov” as he expressed his gratitude to Garcia and committed to defend and support the Province’s water system.
Once the Provincial Board will authorize her to enter into an agreement with CMWDI for the water system, Garcia said she will sign it and water meters will then be installed in the residents’ homes.
Public hearing for the water rates will follow. The tariff rate will be approved by the Provincial Board. (Mylen Manto)