De Oro water district defends 30% rates increase

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/2 June) – The proposed 30-percent rates increased being proposed by the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) is long overdue and is not as exorbitant as what people perceive it to be, a COWD spokesperson claimed.

Ladele Sagrado, COWD acting public relations division manager, said that compared to other water district rates in Mindanao already approved by Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Cagayan de Oro has relatively lower rates.

In a table of comparison of LWUA-approved water rates in various water districts in Mindanao, Gingoog City’s minimum charge for residential one-half-inch connections is P208 while Cagayan de Oro charges P168 for the same connection. Nasipit in Agusan del Norte charges slightly higher than that at P209.

According to COWD, the current minimum charge of 10 cu.m. residential half-inch connection – equivalent to 50 drums – of potable water is P168. This means that for every drum of water, COWD charges P3.36. Under the proposed rates increase, for the same volume of potable water will be charged P4.37.

“The revenue that we generate from our operations is used to fund the expansion and improvement of services. That is aside from the daily operating expenses and paying our loans to LWUA and other banks,” Sagrado said.

Sagrado said one of the reasons they are asking LWUA for rates increase is for COWD to carry out their projects to rehabilitate and improve their facilities for a more efficient public water facility for its concessionaires.

“The increase we implemented in 2007 was to fund our projects for improvement which we have already implemented now,” she said.

“We present these accomplished projects in all of our public hearings,” Sagrado said, adding that public hearings are essential requisites in applying for rate increase with LWUA.

She said they are required to submit a board resolution justifying the request for increase, financial statements, financial projections, and documentation of the public hearings.

“Of course, representatives from LWUA attend these public hearings. They will check if the proposed increase is properly explained to the consumers and, more importantly, if they understand the need for increase,” Sagrado said.

In an interview Tuesday, city councilor Alden Bacal, who also chairs the committee on public utilities, said he has not seen COWD’s report yet, the reason that his committee has not yet passed a resolution.

“COWD has not yet submitted its report on the public hearings they conducted, so we can’t move yet,” said Bacal.

Sagrado said they have already presented the proposed 30-percent rates increase to both the City Council on March 8 and to Bacal’s committee on public utilities on March 22.

“I remember several barangay chairmen attended when we presented our proposal to the City Council’s committee on public utilities,” she said.

She said being the implementing arm of LWUA as its government resource provider, COWD is not technically liable to the local government unit. (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)