With a population of close to half a million people, the country’s second largest airport, three export processing zones, and 19 residential subdivisions, the growing water demands of Lapu Lapu City and similarly situated cities and towns around the country could lead to water crises around the country if water issues are not prioritized by local government unit (LGU) executives.
This according to Philippine Water Partnership (PWP) Chairperson Atty. Nathaniel Santos, who stressed that the burden is on LGUs to work with stakeholders to effectively address water supply and wastewater management issues.
Speaking at the “Local Development means Local Involvement: The Role of LGUs in Water and Wastewater Management” roundtable discussion (RTD) at the Crown Regency Hotel and Suites in Lapu Lapu City, Santos said that “LGUs are at the frontlines of water concerns, and this is especially true in fast-growing cities like Lapu Lapu City.”
This sentiment was echoed by Engr. Ricardo Mendoza from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) Michael Diño, who said that while the OPAV was in place to ensure that national line agencies performed their functions, the impending water crisis made it incumbent for LGUs to spearhead water resource and wastewater management initiatives.
“The role of LGUs is to help because you are the first line of defense; we have to work together to address the water crisis,” said Mendoza.
According to Santos, LGUs were crucial in the delivery of basic services needed to make town and cities attractive to tourists and businesses.
“The potential of these cities to become attractive tourism and investment destinations hinge on the ability of LGUs to deliver basic utilities and services like water, and we are hopeful that these RTDs will help provide the national government and our LGUs with a blueprint for water resources and wastewater management development moving forward,” explained Santos.
“Ultimately, the goal of LGUs should be to maximize their economic growth opportunities, not just avert a water crisis in their areas––and it is becoming increasingly clear that effective local involvement vis-a-vis water resources managements is the key to proper local development.”
Santos said that the concerns raised by Lapu Lapu City Administrator Atty. Florito Pozon during the RTD emphasized the need of LGUs to tackle their water concerns sooner rather than later.
Pozon, a former Lapu Lapu City councilor, had earlier mentioned the challenges faced by Lapu Lapu City with regard to its water supply. According to Pozon, groundwater is Lapu Lapu City’s only source of water, thus requiring Lapu Lapu City to import its water from mainland Cebu. The local water district, said the lawyer, services only 50% of the city.
“You must imagine the water needs of the city. We have tried to avail of the water coming from Bohol, but at this point in time Bohol is not yet ready to share with us their water resource; hopefully with the bridge from Cebu to Bohol that will be realized,” said Pozon.
The Lapu Lapu City RTD is part of a series of fora that are being organized in key areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to consult LGU officials, local water district (LWD) executives, and other stakeholders to better understand and define the role of the LGUs in local water resources management and development.
The convenors of the project include the PWP, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), and ISTRATEHIYA.
PWP is a non-government organization affiliated with the Global Water Partnership that assists the government and provides a neutral venue for discussions on integrated water resources management.