Espinoza: Water rates increase on hold?

·3 min read

Last week, the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) announced its plan to impose a 70 percent increase in water rates beginning on July 1, 2023. MCWD Chairman Joey Daluz issued the announcement on the water rates increase that shocked not only the water consumers served by MCWD, but also Cebu City Mayor Michael “Mike” Rama.

In his announcement, Daluz appeared dead set in implementing the 70 percent increase in our water bills, justifying that MCWD had spent P2.1 billion for the expansion and rehabilitation projects to serve its consumers better and another P12 billion for operational expenses. Really? That’s a lot of money and yet MCWD got the moniker “Moawas Cadiyot Wala na Dayon.”

Daluz said MCWD had been absorbing the increasing operational costs and its reserve funds are already depleted. “We really need this adjustment in order to continue with our operation,” said Daluz.

According to Daluz, based on the guidelines of the Local Water Utilities, MCWD can implement a price adjustment every five years after informing the public about the matter. The last time MCWD implemented a water tariff increase, Daluz said, was over seven years ago on Jan. 1, 2015.

Since the MCWD will still conduct a series of consultative meetings with the stakeholders, like the officials of the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, and Talisay and the towns of Cordova, Consolacion, Liloan and Compostela, and the water consumers on the effects of the new water rates increase, it follows without saying that MCWD will not start imposing the 60 percent increase by July 1 next year and another 10 percent in 2024. Or, would MCWD later do it unilaterally?

The change of heart of the MCWD chairman to still conduct the public hearing before imposing the new water rates increase could have been influenced by the comment of Mayor Rama done publicly for them to review its planned increase that the city mayor described as abrupt and rather unreasonable.

The city mayor said any adjustment on water tariff should be imposed on a staggered basis to soften the adverse effect on the water consumers until 2025, which is the midterm elections. Mayor Rama even asked the City Council to hold a public hearing on MCWD’s planned increase on water rates so consumers can voice out their concerns.

The public comment of Mayor Rama on the planned water rates increase that he called abrupt and rather unreasonable could also be understood as a caveat to the MCWD management that as the city’s chief executive he should be consulted.

Would the MCWD chairman proceed with the water rates increase next year without a public consultation if Mayor Rama did not step in? I don’t think so though because all public utilities, like MCWD, is mandated to hold a public consultation before any new or increased rates could be imposed on the consumers.

No malice intended, but Mayor Rama’s move would make him look good to his constituents. Besides, to impose soon the water rates hike after the two-year hiatus in economic activities brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and Typhoon Odette in December last year that we are still reeling from would be a double whammy to the consumers and the industries.

This is not to mention the fact that any hike in the water rates would only be passed on to the consumers by the commercial establishments just like what we are experiencing now in the intermittent increase in the price of oil that prices of food products and commodities also went up without notice like a thief in the night.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting