Issue of September 10, 2017
Mt. Province

69th Courier Anniversary Issue
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BWD takes conservative stance on bulk water project revival
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

RAIN CATCH BASIN REHAB -- The more than 10-hectare rain catch basin of Baguio Water District in Sto. Tomas, Tuba, Benguet is undergoing rehabilitation with a project cost of almost P90 million. The water source for Baguio residents is capable of increasing its storage capacity up to 600,000 cubic meters once the project is completed by February 2018. The challenge is for the contractor to ensure the reservoir is sealed from runoff water coming from commercial vegetable farms that use pesticides. -- HFP

The Baguio Water District is not jumping the gun, even when there is a renewed interest from some sectors in reviving the bulk water supply project (BWSP) because of increasing population and booming businesses and investments in Baguio.

Other than the pending case bet-ween the BWD and Benguet Corporation (BC), BWD Board of Directors president Renato Rondez said the board and management have to factor in several issues before it decides to revive the BWSP.

The case between BWD and BC involves the latter’s wish to revive its contract and to retrieve the bond it posted when it won the BWSP in 2004. The project never took off because of public opposition and later the former BWD board cancelled the contract citing drastic increase in the cost of water per cubic meter.

“The board is open to proposals as long as it is technically sound and subject to limitations. But right now we don’t find the need to revive the BWSP,” Rondez told the Courier.

Three companies have earlier signified their intent to be concessionaires of the BWD but only Manila Water has submitted its pre-feasibility study (FS).

The BWD management and the board are studying Manila Water’s-pre-FS.

In the forum organized by the “Baguio We Want” movement at the University of the Philippines Baguio last Aug. 4, participants showed varied reactions regarding the BWSP. Some said rainwater harvesting is a cheaper and viable option, while others said they are willing to pay a higher price as long as all unserviced areas will be connected to the BWD, and water service should be available 24/7.

Some also felt the need for Manila Water to divulge the results of its study particularly its projected cost per cubic meter and its source of water. Representatives of Manila Water declined citing its confidential agreement with BWD.

Rondez said Manila Water’s decision not to reveal details is understandable. With competitors in attendance during the forum and with the study done on their own volition, he said they also have to protect their interest.

BC did not attend the forum, while the BWD sent a representative only to give technical details. Rondez said the BWSP could not be discussed in the forum because of the pending case before the Court of Appeals.

Rondez said even with the clamor, cost and social acceptability are matters that could not be set aside given the regulated nature of water distribution.

“Our rates are regulated by the Local Water Utilities Administration. We could not just increase without their approval,” Rondez said pointing out that the demand for a 24/7 water service may be what some people want but might not be able to afford, or might not want to pay the cost.

“If they want 24/7 service, and all unserviced areas reached, factor in the terrain, the distance of the source of water, the distance of the source to the treatment plant, distance of treatment plant to the consumers, cost of maintenance, overhead costs. All these entail costs and naturally have to be paid by consumers. Are they willing to pay?” Rondez asked and said that BWD is embarking on projects that although it does not completely address the consumer demand, it somehow deals with problems on water supply and distribution, and without the BWD having to increase its rates. 

These projects are the rehabilitation of the Sto. Tomas rainwater catchment basin and the construction of a rainwater harvester at the Busol watershed.

Rondez said with more water to distribute, the number of hours allotted in the rationing of water may be increased or more areas will be reached, as a result.  

The BWD projects that it will be able to close the gap in water supply and demand in two to five years.

A rehabilitated Sto. Tomas rain basin is projected to store one million cubic meters of water while the Busol rainwater harvester has a capacity of 63,000 cubic meters.

The improvement of BWD’s distribution lines is also seen to improve water supply through the reduction of water losses, which is pegged at 24 percent of the utility’s close to 50,000 cubic meters daily supply capacity.

The infrastructure projects are funded under the P400M grant secured by the utility from the national government.  

BWD also awarded a contract to Badiwan Silver Springs to supply BWD 2,000 to 5,000 cubic meters daily. The supply agreement is expected to be implemented by 2019. 

BWD is also implementing five production well drilling projects.

In 2015, BWD’s projected daily supply capacity is 42,594 cubic meters but the actual demand was pegged at 60,047 cubic meters.

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