Local water districts?

STREETLIFE - Nigel Villarete - The Freeman

This idea emerged from the brouhaha now persisting at the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD). And no matter how the proponent may explain how this might be a clever idea and it might just work; it still smacks of pure unadulterated politics and nothing else. It’s not as if this has not been discussed before. I remember a lengthy conversation with Fr. Francisco “Paking” Silva a long time ago, when he was with MCWD, and he wanted me to join the district.

Padre Paking was a practical person who easily found solutions to problems wherever he was assigned to. Of course, while I did not succumb to his persistent calls for me to join MCWD, we did talk about local water services management at length, both in terms of its technical and legal nuances. This was on top of our usual conversation on local power management since he was overseeing issues on electric cooperatives, too (with CEBECO). Both are peculiarly similar. We arrive at the same conclusion --creating local water districts is as ridiculous as creating local electrical companies per LGU.

The impracticality stems from the very nature of the “resource” itself. Both come or are generated from nature which is not compatible with nor contained within local political boundaries. Both have distinct sources in nature not defined nor dictated by where people live. And the best way to manage the resource is to understand its source and destination/coverage irrespective of jurisdiction. There might be nuances of localization in terms of “protecting” endangered resources, but this must be governed by the common good and managed under “higher” authorities to prevent “protectionism” over a common national resource.

Water supply is similar to power supply --they’re not restricted in area to where these are sourced or where these are delivered/used. In the case of power, Metro Cebu’s supply comes mostly from the geothermal power plants in Leyte and Negros islands. Imagine somebody suggesting each local government unit should create their own power firm. We’ll be soon back in the dark ages as Metro Cebu, Cebu City particularly, doesn’t have sufficient power supply facilities. And if we can build our own, it would come at astronomical costs!

That is why when it comes to water and power, we refrain from the suggested “localization” because these are generated from national natural resources not owned by any local government. Metro Cebu’s water resources are limited, and time will come in the future when we will need to source it from the Inabanga River in Bohol. What if Inabanga town or Bohol province won’t agree, are we to resort to desalination which will skyrocket water prices to levels beyond the reach of the poor?

There is a cogent reason “water supply” (and “power supply”) management are separated from politics and juridical localization, foremost of which is to protect them from issues arising from personal or political intentions. This is nothing new, we’ve had this exceedingly tiring and lengthy discussion as far back as 30 years ago, not only in Cebu but in many parts of the country, as well as at the national level, with NEDA and the National Water Resources Board. It simply doesn’t work.

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