Cebu businessmen oppose proposed water hike

Cebu businessmen oppose proposed water hike

CEBU CITY – The Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) on Monday said it has strongly opposed the proposed water price hike of Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD).

”Being the voice of the business community of Cebu and yet taking on interests of public welfare, CCCI believes that the proposed price increase of PHP300 for every 10 cubic meters of water is glaring, exorbitant and preposterous,” CCCI president Felix Taguiam said in a media statement.

As the CCCI formally sent its position paper to MCWD last Friday, it urged Cebu’s biggest water distributor to reconsider the adoption of the proposed water price hike.

CCCI also believes that investing its synergy with the public and private sector on evidence-based realities “enables us to achieve a revived economy and more liveable vibrant Cebu.”

In the last two decades, prices of almost all the essential commodities have been increasing at an alarming rate, Taguiam said.

“The soaring basic commodity prices means that families are forced to cut back on the quantity or quality of their food and change consumption patterns as a higher share of the family income goes to food and paying bills for essential commodities such as water,” he said.

An increasing trend of inflation presents serious risks towards food, hygiene, living standards, and the nutrition situation of people in the marginalized sector.

Furthermore, businesses most especially the micro, small and medium enterprises are further burdened amidst the economic crisis brought about by the debilitating and crippling global pandemic, Taguiam said.

As the country enters the pre-pandemic era, Cebu’s business competitiveness decreased significantly from being 3rd in the country in 2015 to a record 25th in 2018.

This was substantiated further with results of the CCCI’s July 2019 report entitled “Shared Ambisyon: Driving Cebu Competitiveness to the Next Level” commissioned to PricewaterhouseCoopers PWC/Isla Lipana & Co. which revealed the high cost of utilities including water as among the top three obstacles to success of business and Cebu as a whole.

Recently, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that inflation surged to 4.2 percent in January 2021. The latest figure is higher than the 3.5 percent recorded in December 2020 and the 2.9 percent posted in January 2020.

“At a time when the country and the Cebuanos are reeling from one of the worst pandemic-induced recessions, a price increase on indisputably the most important commodity on earth – water, is insensitive, imprudent, unconscionable and irresponsible,” Taguiam said.

The proposed price increase of PHP300 for every 10 cubic meters of water is glaring, exorbitant and preposterous and even if backed up by plans to invest in desalination, he said.

The world is still in the middle of a pandemic and people are still navigating through and striving to endure the effects of the on-going crisis, he added.

“For those who are already struggling to pay their electricity and water bills or the newly unemployed, even a modest increase in household bills can be problematic and would only be an added burden. Now more than ever, access to affordable water supply is critical to the everyday living of families in Cebu,” Taguiam said.

He said that it is also equally important to remember public welfare as the ultimate aim of basic service delivery which underscores the water industry.

This must be matched with informed and science-based decision making on sustainable solutions without the adverse effects to the public including the business community, he said.

“Ultimately, ill-conceived and ill-timed decisions and actions on water supply prices will invariably affect the financial security of the most vulnerable sectors of the community which are aggravating and can lead to unrest during these uncertain times,” he added.

Last month, MCWD had warned consumers that they should expect a rate increase of PHP70 to PHP120 per 10 cubic meters of water as soon as it begins to supply desalinated water from three privately owned desalination plants that will be built soon.

This means that from the current rate of PHP180 per 10 cubic meters, Cebu’s water rates could go up to as much as PHP300 for every 10 cubic meters of water.

MCWD, however, clarified that the rate hike would have to go through a process before its implementation such as public consultation and publication in newspapers. The water supplier also has to seek the approval for the water rate amendment from the Local Water Utilities Administration.

MCWD targets to supply consumers with desalinated water as part of its long-term solution to address Metro Cebu’s water shortage. (PNA)

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