IN FEBRUARY 2015, Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) gave its third installment report in a closed-door meeting with Cebu’s heads of local governments.
The warning that came out of the meeting was succinct and ominous: “If we won’t have Mananga in 2020, there will be a deficit in in the supply of water,” said then MCWD manager Ernie Dello after the meeting.
And looking back, one can see Delco must have been under-stating, given the recent preview of things to come in recent water crises.
Cebu City and other Metro Cebu areas served by the water district have long decried the MCWD-admitted deficiency in service, which would now and then turn into outright affliction.
Shortage in 2016, 2019
In April 2016, then mayor Mike Rama declared a state of emergency because of the water crisis in the city. Last summer this year, the city suffered the worst water supply problem since typhoon Ruping in 1990 struck down power lines and shut off MCWD faucets. Last summer, when people in many barangays queued for water from water wells or hauled by fire department or MCWD trucks, planners talked again of Mananga (and Lusaran), forgetting that Jica rang the alarm bells just four years ago.
What happened? Why has the Jica warning not been heeded? Perhaps they really are doing something about it. Progress on the project has not been clear but Jica’s benchmark for disaster, 2020, looms closer and larger.
Maybe because the Mananga solution would require relocating 500 households in at least 10 barangays in Cebu City and Talisay City. That’s a lot for politicians to decide. They put off tough decisions until the elections, then put them off again when they are elected or reelected.
No one led
No leader has risen to galvanize action. It was not just a matter for Talisay and Cebu cities to worry and do something about--not just for Cebu City’s Mike Rama, then Tomas Osmeña, or Talisay’s Johnny de los Reyes, then Eddie Gullas--but for all of Cebu’s leaders.
But then in recent memory who has stood up, spoken out, and inspired action for problems that were common to Cebu because they spilled from the boundary of each town or city?
Cebu City’s Osmeña refused to join attempts for collective action by Cebu’s LGUs, even picking a quarrel with the Talisay City mayor and shunning the well-intentioned Mega Cebu project. Then governor Junjun Davide had kept himself to the towns and component cities. So had the likes of Jonas Cortes, then Luigi Quisumbing of Mandaue City and Paz Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City; they had their hands full within their respective LGUs.
More hard to tell, because they didn’t try, they might not have the sterner stuff that a leader among leaders would require.
The kind we need
What has Cebu lacked?
 A leader who looks beyond the borders of the local government unit and believes that what would afflict the rest of Cebu could also afflict his constituents;
 A leader who seeks consensus instead of domination or control, one who can work with other leaders of different political stripe or style of governance, even without formal designation or fiat.
 A leader who can articulate and defend the interest of Cebu and Cebuanos even at the risk of criticism or reprisal from those who disagree.
You may look now but we may have such a leader in Cebu’s midst.
It looks like returnee Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia has begun to show indicias or badges of that brand of leadership.
Could be the one
She did when Governor Gwen announced her decision to work with Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella, formally sealed at a “unity and solidarity dinner” last Aug. 31. She did when she initiated and waged measures to protect Cebu from the threat of the African Swine Fever, a dynamism that put some top Department of Health officials to shame.
It is in time of danger to the community that Cebu needs that kind of a leader most, when such a leader is tried and tested. The leader rallies people during disaster and condemns oppression and illegality or injustice. Yes, that kind.
Her actions in future crises will tell us more. For now, Governor Gwen could be the one.