IN LEGAZPI CITY: Albay traders group backs ‘Water Crisis’ declaration

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) on Monday, Feb. 10, has expressed concern over the current state of the water supply facility in this city and voiced it support to the city government action declaring the city under a state of “water crisis.”

Rosemarie Quinto Rey, ACCI president said majority of its members have declared support to the city government move to declare the city under a “Water Crisis” state for the inability of the Legazpi City Water District (LCWD) particularly the Philippine Hydro (PhilHydro) to produce the 32 million liters a day requirement of potable water supply to 25,000 water consumers in this city.

Rey said the chamber representing the business sector is a member of the newly created task group to draw up appropriate and legal measures to address this problem.

“We (task group) recently decided to open for bidding the supply of bulk water to LCWD as there are several players who signified and are interested to bid. Hope we can do it very soon,” she said.

Martin Reynoso, an ACCI member and who is engaged in real estate said “more players are needed to improve the quality of water, claiming that our water service provider needs a lot of improvement, the water pressure during peak hours is very low while the water quality is poor as its turbidity is very high parang iced tea. ”

Yves Eli Yu, owner of the ELYK Reality Development Corp., based here said “It will always be better especially for a developing city to have more players as water is a basic necessity. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure the quality and availability of water supply is sustained. ”

Lawyer Dominador Barrameda, University of Santo Tomas (UST) Legazpi and Bicol University law professor, in an interview said “water shortage has been lingering problem in the city for quiet sometime specially in residential areas so its high time to consider other players to come in.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Noel Rosal said the declaration of “water crisis” is a call for other interested players to provide the city with the potable water requirement needed, which the PhilHydro failed to provide.

Rosal said under the contract, PhilHydro was commissioned by the LCWD as bulk water provider by supplying 25,000 consumers with 32 million liters of potable water daily, however due to the inability to scout for other water source, the firm could only supply the city with 10 million liters of water a day.

The mayor said the task force initially found an alternative measure and to fill in the gap of over 22 million liters of daily water supply deficiency, there is a need to look for other water sources, which according to him would need time and for the entry of new players as an immediate measure.

Rosal said upon consultation with Jeci Lapus, acting administrator of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Lapus advised us that for the city to employ new water supply providers, we should declare the area under a state of “water crisis.”

He said at least two water supply providers have submitted their proposals. These are Mactan Rock and Quinsay.

Rosal said the LCWD is already evaluating the proposal submitted by Mactan Rock Industries Inc.

Jess Barizo, LCWD chairperson, said in November last year that the LCWD board passed a resolution declaring a water crisis due to constraint on water sources and turbidity concerns, and to be able to undertake immediate measures to mitigate or avert the occurrence of prolonged water shortage and ensure the sustainability of clean and safe water supply in the city.

Barizo said the board resolution was submitted to Rosal and the Sangguniang Panglunsod, which the latter adopted.

“There are things that we cannot do alone such as imposing penalties or sanctions so we need the help of the city government,” Barizo said.

He said the recommendations include: the creation of a multi-sectoral water governance council designed to ensure and monitor the availability of potable water supply, taking into consideration not just present concerns but also water security for future water needs; and scout for the entry of another bulk water supplier.

On the recommendation of Rosal and the city council, the LCWD has put on hold for eight months the payment of water supply bills provided by PhilHydro in the amount of more or less P62 million.

Under its contract with PhilHydro, LCWD is paying an average of P7.7 million in monthly bill.

The suspension of payments is part of an ongoing discussion with PhilHydro partly for them to improve service delivery and also to fast track the necessary plant improvement in their water treatment facility.

Asked what other measures have been taken to address the issue, Barizo said the entry of new water supply providers would be a welcome move saying “we are working on having additional bulk water providers.” LCWD data show that Legazpi City is not naturally blessed with abundant water sources as compared with other cities.

The city’s current water sources are located at the foot of Mayon Volcano making it prone to hazards due to Mayon’s activity, while the sources of PhilHydro are rivers, which typical of surface water sources, are susceptible to changing conditions.

However, part of our current activities is the development of additional sources particularly in southern barangays, Barizo said.

The LCWD is also addressing other issues such as non-revenue water, cost of which is not passed on to the consumers but is borne by the local water firm.

These may be due to leakages, losses due to pilferage and other forms of commercial losses, etc, he said. LCWD has been serving 55 out of the 70 barangays in the city. The 15 villages not under the service of LCWD are mostly on the southern part of the city.

Presently LCWD derives 61 percent of its potable water source from PhilHydro, 14 percent from springs and 25 percent from deep wells.

LCWD also said that another issue confronting the threat on potable water quality of the existing source is the unregulated human-related activity such as the operation of water refilling stations, laundry shops and car wash shops with powerful water pumps.

This issue once unattended would affect the water supply to its onsumers, LCWD said.