LEGAZPI CITY: Water, water, everywhere . . . and not a drop to drink.
That famous line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” may well apply to residents here who thirst for justice after the Legazpi City Water District (LCWD) and its concessionaire Philhydro repeatedly failed to give them clean drinking water since 2008 in spite of their high water bills.
Instead of “super clean, purified mineral water” coming out their faucets as promised by Philhydro, residents are getting a yellow-brown fluid that the regional health office and city council say is not fit for drinking, cooking, bathing or washing laundry.
Worse, officials of the Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) Bicol Chapter found that Philhydro is operating without the necessary business and building permits, operational clearance from the health department, and environmental clearance certificate. How on earth is that possible, they asked.
Because of this, CCW officials are contemplating the possibility of filing criminal and civil cases against LCWD and Philhydro officials as well as Local Government Units (LGUs) officials for neglect.
Malacañang has also stepped into the picture after the Commission on Audit found se- rious violations in the LCWD-Philhydro contract.
At the same time, angry consumers are asking for a refund of their high water bills and have brought the matter to Mayor Noel Rosal who said he would reissue a 2012 warning that “LCWD-Philhydro water remains unsafe for drinking.”
However, Rosal said he would not stop the operations of the LCWD and Philhydro at the moment in the absence of an alternative water source.
Both LCWD and Philhydro denied being the source of the dirty water and blamed illegal water connections for this.
It all started in 2007 when LCWD entered into contract with the virtually unknown Philhydro to supply water for 20,000 consumers. In heavily advertised promotions, the latter promised to deliver “super clean, mineral water.”
The dirty water issue surfaced when LCWD asked for a higher water rate in 2008, saying this was needed to improve services and supply the province with clean drinking water.
Journalist Irene Solmirano later complained that the LCWD was cheating consumers with their false promise of clean water. The Barangay Orosite resident said that for years, consumers had to contend with LCWD’s poor service that led to the popularity of bottled water in their area.
In 2010, Solmirano wrote a series of letters to Malacañang, asking palace officials to investigate LCWD. This prompted the city council to conduct a probe initiated by councilor Rolly Rosal in 2011 whose family was forced to construct a deep well instead of using LCWD’s dirty water.
Maynilad Water Services Inc. later acquired Philhydro in August 2012 and announced in a press conference last month that they would be infusing an additional P3 million to rehabilitate its costly reverse osmosis water treatment facilities for the benefit of consumers. It blamed Mayon Volcano for the contamination of water. In spite of this, nothing has changed.