What is important to us? Water or politics?
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - August 27, 2019 - 12:00am

If you people already forgot, Cebu City had a problem with saltwater intrusion 30 years ago when it already reached Mango Avenue. But it didn’t worsen simply because back then, we had 50-hectare Club Filipino, Inc. golf course which Cebu Province sold for P640 million. And everybody in Cebu was happy that the province made that much money for land that supposedly only the rich people used playing golf. But what Cebuanos failed to understand was that the Club Filipino golf course had another vital use, it brought rainwater into the aquifer and thus prevented saltwater intrusion deeper into the city.

But what is the Club Filipino Inc. today? It’s the Cebu Business Park, literally a concrete jungle and therefore when it rains hard, it can no longer catch rainwater and bring it to the aquifer. Now ask yourself, how much is the property in Cebu Business Park? Of course it is many times worth the P640 million Ayala Corp. paid for the land.

Mind you, I interviewed my good friend, Joel Mari Yu, chairman of the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) on my talkshow “Straight from the Sky” two months ago and he warned me that our water problem is far worse than anyone imagined. But what is happening these days is that pundits are attacking Yu because he was appointed by former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña. These pundits don’t realize Yu knows our water problem, but they want him out of MCWD simply because they dubbed him an Osmeña lackey. But truth to tell, Yu is like me, when I was CITOM chief, I was not an Osmeña lackey but rather I wanted to help our growing traffic problem, even without pay which was, for me, my kind of volunteer work for Cebu City.

Now let’s move on to the next problem; why our saltwater intrusion has now reached the Provincial Capitol. If you folks remember we used to have the old Lahug Airport and its runway. In the old days, when rainwater cascaded from Nivel Hills like a raging river, it stopped in the old Lahug Airport and seeped into the aquifer. This is why saltwater intrusion in Cebu City was checked. But ask yourself what is the old Lahug Airport today? It is IT Park, owned by the Ayala Corp. in partnership with Cebu Province. So today when the raging rainwater rushes down Salinas Drive, it goes past IT Park and literally floods SM City Cebu!

So what did I gather from the interview with Yu? First is that MCWD is unable to provide enough potable water to satisfy the demands of people living in its franchise area. So in the end, people who need water like almost all the luxurious villages or subdivisions in Cebu City, have to get their own water from underground. The water needs in the franchise area of MCWD is from Compostela to Talisay; a population of 2.5 million people who need 500,000 cubic meters a day. But MCWD can only supply 230,000 cubic meters of water daily, which means the rest get their water from underground sources in an area where our aquifer is now seriously compromised because of a lack of water returning to the aquifer.

Another very important thing is that we are flushing our toilets, cleaning our cars or gardens, and taking a bath with potable water, which is quite expensive to use. Apparently I also learned that when then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos created the water districts all over the Philippines in 1973, he put in a law that signified that the water districts will only give the citizens potable water, which is why our water is expensive. But then that was during the Martial Law years when people used to drink water from the faucets supplied by the water districts.

At this point, I suggest to the 18th Congress to pass a law to give non-potable water to the clients of the water districts simply because of the phenomenon called “bottled water”! Ask yourself; do you still drink water from the faucet or from mineral water supplied by many water suppliers? Mind you, even in areas, which are called squatter colonies, many people drink water supplied in plastic water bottles. But the thinking of many people including writers these days is to remove Yu because of politics when they should be writing more about our water problems, which is already in a critical stage.

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