Seven-year-old Ashley Mae Casas pushes her toy car carrying plastic bottles filled with water out of their yard, around 20 meters away from a communal faucet in Barangay Cogon West, Carmen town.
She has been pushing it back and forth for four times already filling up a bigger drum of water.
Filling up recycled plastic bottles stacked in her toy car makes fetching water less of a chore. Her hair and dress are soaked but she merely shrugged at the suggestion of changing to fresh clothes.
She said she enjoys the task like ordinary child’s play and confidently can fill up a few more drums.
Compared to the previous waiting time she had to endure back when the queue seemed to be endless, now the task can be done in less than an hour since water is already available 24/7.
The communal faucet in Cogon West is one of the 14 installed to provide uninterrupted supply of water to the first 4,000 of 8,000 beneficiary households in Carmen’s eight low-lying barangays.
Aside from Ashley, 12-year-old Luke Martin Entero fetches water, too, as a daily task as he is assigned to wash the dishes in their household.
He is grateful that it doesn’t take so much effort to bring the water now to their kitchen since it is just a stone’s throw from the communal faucet. He just has to manage a narrow alley to get to their house but has never experienced lining up for water again.
Luke said that they used to wake up at around 5 a.m. to line up for supply from a water line sourced from Uragay Spring. The supply shuts off after two hours.
There were even stories in the past of bickering among neighbors who elbowed their way to their share upon noticing that others lined up more water containers than others do; a question of equity that only a 24/7 supply has resolved. Finally.
Savings from water purchases
While the water from an old spring in Barangay Poblacion referred to as “Bukingking” has saved the residents from past dry spells, it is not suitable for cooking.
The water turns brackish on a high tide so the residents have shied away from using it for cooking. They either buy from those who have “poso” where water is pumped out of aquifers, or purchase water by gallons from water refilling stations.
“Mopalit mi og mineral water (actually purified water) para kilis ug sabaw sa bugas,” said Janice Villamor, resident of Barangay Poblacion.
As soon as the communal faucet became functional, she said that it renders a weekly savings of P120 since they used to consume four gallons at P30 each.
In Cogon West, 53-year-old Jocelyn Mahusay expressed how glad she is that they have now stopped completely from relying on their old provider. She said that though water was inadequate and of poor quality, they had to make do with the resources available even if sediments question the water quality.
“Naa gyuy diperensiya among tubig sa una, kanang sa reservoir. Dala nang lamog-lamog. Kay mao ra man guy naa. Maong nalipay mi gibutangan mi ni Sir Gerald (former mayor and brother of incumbent Mayor Carlo Villamor) diri og communal faucet nga wala na’y pawong-pawong ang agas. Bisan unsa’ng orasa mahimo na mi’ng magkawos,” Mahusay expressed.
She also said that now, they have done away with the P30 monthly bill since the water from the communal faucet is free of charge.
Leonora Obiedo, 64 years old, a resident of Poblacion, said she trusts deeply the words of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.
“Dili man gud na siya dawo. Akong nakita ba nga nagtan-aw gyud na siya sa kaayohan sa katawhan. Mao’ng misalig ra gyud ko sa iyang giingon nga moabot ra gyud ang tubig diri sa among tugkaran,” she said with the enthusiasm of a child about to unravel a present.
Barangay Baring resident Teofila de Dios, 61 years old, used to pay a peso for every container of water delivered to her house since the water service sourced from Uragay Spring got interrupted. This was the water line that provided supply at a certain time of the day for only around two hours daily.
“Dako gyud kaayo ko’g pasalamat ni Gov. Gwen kon maabot na gyud sa among balay ang tubig kay lisud na gyud kon tiguwang na ka unya magsige pa og hakot,” she said.
Carmen is known for a number of water sources aside from deep wells. Prominent are the surface water of Cantumog-Luyang River, Uragay Spring of Barangay Corte, and Mangitngit Falls of Barangay Lower Natimao-an.
In fact, Carmen supplies 35 million liters of water daily to Metro Cebu. Ironically, its own residents have complained of a lack in water supply for years.
Now, the residents can enjoy the waters from their own rivers and springs with the Level 3 waterworks system from the Capitol.
Inter-LGU Waterworks System
The Provincial Government, through its Economic Enterprise Council (EEC), created the Cebu Provincial Inter-LGU Waterworks System. It is set to operate and manage an inter-municipal water system and office under the Provincial Governor’s Office.
In an open forum in Carmen on January 8, Garcia announced of the Capitol’s move to run the town’s Level 3 waterworks system after seven of the town’s councilors refused to give their mayor the authority to sign an agreement with CMWDI.
The Capitol’s P50-million waterworks project in Carmen is set to provide water to eight barangays that have suffered from the lack of water supply for years. The supply will be taken from the transmission pipes of CMWDI.
Phase 1 of the water system worth P20 million was inaugurated last December 10 to supply water to Poblacion, Cogon West, Cogon East, and Baring through communal faucets. In its second phase with a budget of P30 million, it is to provide water to Luyang, Dawis Sur, Dawis Norte, and Puente.
According to Mayor Carlo Villamor, the tapping of distribution lines to the main line of the Cebu Manila Water Development, Inc. (CMWDI) could have started last year but a rift in the Sangguniang Bayan halted the procedure.
“Supposedly, September 30 last year nakasugod na unta ta og tap sa main line pero nakahibalo na man gyud mo unsay nahitabo sa Konseho maong nalangay. Pero since mo-take over na man ang Provincial Government, maka-tap na ta by March,” Mayor Villamor said.
“Pasensiya na gyud sa mga residente nga naghinam-hinam na nga dunay tubig sa ilang matag panimalay. Dili gyud madali kay naa may proseso like public hearing, nya moari pud ang members sa Provincial Board, nya apruban pa sad sa Provincial Board ang bag-o nga taripa,” he explained.
Water rates start at P5.80 per cubic meter for the first ten (10) cubic meters.
The Provincial Board (PB) has already ratified Resolution No. 2021-01 on the creation of the provincial waterworks system which initializes an operation manual and framework of the system.
The PB’s approval of the resolution on Wednesday, January 13, is its response to Cebu’s growing demand for potable water, especially Carmen, which faces water shortage despite providing water to Metro Cebu.
“We take it as a responsibility to effectively provide basic services and facilities, one of which is the inter-municipal waterworks. Considering the need of our Cebuanos for enough potable water supply, it is therefore our duty to provide them this basic need of water through a waterworks system operated by the Province,” 2nd District PB Member Edsel Galeos, author of the proposed resolution, expressed during a special session.
Governor Garcia, in her earlier statements through Facebook livestream, expressed her firm belief that “water is a basic human right.”
She reiterated this in the inauguration of waterworks in Oslob and Santander after the inauguration of communal faucets in Carmen.
The Level III waterworks system in Oslob’s Barangay Mainit is set to deliver potable water to every household in Barangays Lagunde, Can-ukban, Manlum, Mainit, and Cansaloay.
“Ako gyud ning gipaningkamutan nga mahatagan og tukmang atensyon ang panginahanglanon sa patubig. Kini tungod kay ang tubig is a basic human right,” Garcia pointed out.
“Gani natandog kaayo ko didto sa lungsod sa Carmen sa reaksyon sa mga tawo sa pag-inaugurate nato sa ilang waterworks system tungod kay dugay na kaayong panahon nga nag-antos sila sa kakuwang sa supply sa tubig apan sila maoy nag-supply og tubig sa Metro Cebu og 35 milyones litros matag adlaw gikan sa ilang Luyang River,” she underscored.
In Barangay Bunlan, Santander, a time capsule was laid to mark the construction of a production well that will run a total of five water pumping stations in Bunlan, Kandamiang, Upper Bunlan, Upper Looc, and Salay.
Smart water meters
Smart water meters will be used in the inter-LGU waterworks system so readings can be done remotely while ensuring accurate data, thus eliminating manual readings and estimated bills. Smart meters also ensure immediate information on leaking and water wastage.
“Electronically, ang kada cubic meter nga gikunsumo - that would feed into our own central system so that on a cut-off date the bills will be automatically generated to be distributed to the different households,” Garcia explained in a press conference on Thursday, January 14.
“Kana na lang ang atong magastohan, ang distribution, ug unya payment - mag-put up gyud ta’g operation center didto diin pwede sila ka-apply. But ang payment can be done through Kwarta Padala direct to the (Provincial) Treasurer’s Office,” she continued.
A leeway to payment is assured similar to how electric bills are collected.
“Duna ta’y ihatag nga leeway upon receipt, parehas ba sa Cebeco (Cebu Electric Cooperative), pila ka days, kon dili nimo mabayran mo-automatic shut-off tong meter until mabayran to nimo imong bill,” Garcia further said.
The governor committed to have this started within the first quarter of the year. (Eleanor Valeros)