It was still very fresh to all of us when Cebu City was placed under community quarantine last March 16, 2020, due to the Coronavirus Disease outbreak in the country. We were both confused and anxious when business operations were stopped, classes at school were dismissed earlier, traveling was banned, public transport was halted, and regions were gradually closing borders. This is just temporary, we thought, but we’re already half of the calendar year and it has been almost six months that every movement was strictly regulated while we’re struggling and coping. Then, there’s this ongoing water supply shortage in Metro Cebu.
Drowned in Crisis: Cebu City on water supply shortage during pandemic
Local government units, health agencies, and medical experts strongly imposed health precautionary measures for the citizens to help “flatten the curve”. Everything is new and peculiar to us, but we forced ourselves to abide by them. We have been repetitively and continually spoon-fed with the trifecta of quarantine protocols: social distancing, wearing of face mask when one needs to go out of the house to buy essentials and frequent washing of hands with soap and water.
But there is an ongoing problem on the third item of the quarantine protocol. It is an existing issue in Cebu City to have a shortage of water supply even before the pandemic happened. I can remember clearly that I started bombarding the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD)’s Facebook Messenger with complaints way back Christmas of 2018.
“No water flow at F. Ramos Street since this morning,” I repeatedly messaged MCWD on Facebook regarding the problem. I kept on doing it every time there is no water coming out from our faucet while the water bill also kept on arriving on our doorstep. It would anger me so much when one time we received a disconnection notice for not paying it. I would love them to cut the pipes so they can personally see that “Wala’y tubig dinhi sa among dapit!”
Until such time, September 20, 2019, I received a very lengthy reply from MCWD when once again I sent them a message on Facebook about the same issue. Here’s the actual screenshot of MCWD’s reply on Facebook Messenger.
“We do apologize for the inconvenience. What we are experiencing right now in the areas of Cogon Ramos, Sta. Cruz, Sambag 1 & 2, Zapatera, T. Padilla, Lorega San Miguel, Tejero, Carreta, Imus, Sikatuna, Day-as, Mabolo and Pier Areas is an isolated case. This has already been raised to our Production Team and we regret to inform you that the water supply in these areas are depleting,” as mentioned on MCWD’s reply. “The water pressure in these areas is very low due to low supply. These past few months, two private suppliers backed out and decided not to supply water for MCWD. We lost 5,000 cubic meters per day which affected these areas. Our production team is currently working hand in hand to sustain the needs and demands of the consumers. As you could notice, our Production team are in these areas looking for solutions.
“We are begging for your patience and understanding this time. We do understand this is quite frustrating on your end as our valued consumers. We can assure you a solution to this issue is now currently underway and it’s already happening. We cannot provide a specific time of completion but we can assure that a resolution has been planned up to this time. MCWD will be working with the local government so that we can plan more solutions for the areas. Thank you for your understanding.”
With that said, MCWD acknowledged that the water supply is indeed depleting. They even mentioned about two suppliers backed out and decided not to supply water for Cebu City. Even though they already knew what caused the problem, and even able to identify the areas being affected by the water supply shortage, why is MCWD failed to provide adequate water?
As the saying goes, “If symptoms persist, consult your doctor,” once again I messaged MCWD on Facebook last October 22, 2019, because again, “the symptoms persist.”
I haven’t heard from the neighbors of MCWD personnel arriving in our barangay in Cogon Ramos (Poblacion) to do an ocular visit when one of the replies I have received said, “Our field team already surveyed the area.”
With the “symptoms” persisting, and myself deliberately complaining to MCWD for “consultation” to give us updates of any solutions they might have think of, I don’t think they have any proper resolution at hand and the community still having the problem. I don’t think MCWD is the right “doctor” to ask consultation regarding the symptoms. The question here now, “Then who is?”
Christmas came and more messages sent to the MCWD, it became worrisome when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and piled up the ongoing water crisis. It is more alarming when the Department of Health and the local government kept pushing the quarantine protocols to the community members to help flatten the curve. One of which is the frequent washing of hands with soap and water. But then again, Cebu City is having a water crisis.
On February 17, 2020, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella has sworn into office former city councilor and lawyer, Atty. Joey Daluz III as the new chairman of the MCWD Board of Directors. Atty. Francisco Malilong, Jr., and Miguelito Pato were elected Vice-Chairman and Secretary, respectively.
Within the span of six months, two empty and expensive blue plastic barrels were bought to store rainwater just in case it would rain and we can have water for laundry, for a shower, for dishwashing, and for toilet flushing. Not to forget, the sacrificial bathing with gallons and gallons of mineral water that will cost ₱20 per 5-gallon container. We even bought another electric water pump to get the rainwater from the blue plastic barrels going to the main water tank so we can have water running on our faucets.
August came, and netizens are still complaining that MCWD continues to fail in providing adequate water all over Metro Cebu despite the onset of the rains the past few weeks. Another water bill came even though we have been using rain and mineral water for everything in the house.
I can remember that on Labor Day, May 1, 2020, I sent again another message to MCWD on Facebook about the same problem of having no running water. With all the worries about people starting to go out to look for water violating the social distancing protocol and water refilling stations themselves cannot serve mineral water because of the same issue, all you get as a reply from MCWD was a robotic message, “Thank you for contacting MCWD! Your concern will be taken care of with utmost priority. May you please provide us with [your account details].”
While I am writing this article, and reviewing my messages to MCWD, it is very obvious that I was so worried when on the second day of May there was still no water and I’ve found out that people started going out, queued at the Ramos public market to get some water from the manually-operated water pump, which we’ve learned not safe to drink because one of the neighbors said: “It is installed near a septic tank somewhere.”
Distribution of water using tanker trucks in the communities will only give more harm than remedy. It will cause crowding and contamination of the COVID-19 virus. There will be a lack of social distancing in the lines of the residents with their water containers.
If it is indeed true that Cebu City is running out of water supply, then, why is it other areas do have water? The Cebu City government and MCWD should hurry up in finding a resolution to this problem. If people will start going out to get water somewhere else and will force themselves to not follow the quarantine protocols, they will get infected with COVID-19. And we’re screwed.