In a significant move to address longstanding challenges plaguing the Iligan City Waterworks System (ICWS), Mayor Frederick Siao has extended a warm welcome to the joint Performance and Compliance Audit initiated by the Commission on Audit (COA) and various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The comprehensive audit, which commenced yesterday, aims to shed light on the issues crippling the city’s water infrastructure.

Mayor Siao expressed his administration’s enthusiasm for this vital audit process, as it is expected to unearth critical insights into the deficiencies present within the ICWS. The problems outlined by the Mayor encompass a range of issues including subpar project execution, lack of strategic planning, absence of a comprehensive map or blueprint detailing the intricate network of pipes and valves across the city, unauthorized sales of piping materials, unaddressed Non-Revenue Water (NRW) stemming from leaks, and a dearth of proficient technical personnel.

One glaring financial discrepancy highlighted by Mayor Siao is the staggering cost burden on the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Iligan, which shells out a substantial 140 Million Pesos annually for ICWS operations. This expenditure sharply contrasts with the ICWS’s modest revenue of 60 Million Pesos. It was elucidated that the LGU’s investment remained partially unrecovered, with a substantial 80 Million Pesos being funneled into operational expenses without corresponding returns.

In light of these pressing challenges, Mayor Siao enumerated three potential avenues to tackle Iligan’s water crisis head-on. Firstly, he discussed the possibility of the LGU continuing its management of the ICWS, albeit amidst a shortage of technical experts. The second option entails entrusting the Local Water Utility Administration (LWUA) with the management reins, albeit at the cost of city improvements, as the necessary funding would entail incurring loans. The third option, perhaps the most novel, involves a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, where a private entity would infuse capital and technical expertise to refurbish and uphold the water facilities. This approach would allow the LGU to maintain ownership of the ICWS while establishing an autonomous regulatory body to ensure consumer rights and fair water pricing.

Presently, the LGU remains in the preliminary stages of any negotiations with potential private investors. The ICWS is currently being overseen and financed by the LGU, with concerted efforts being made to enhance the skills of its workforce. Mayor Siao is optimistic that the ongoing audit will not only pinpoint the existing woes but also present actionable recommendations to enhance the water service.

The audit is slated for completion on September 15, 2023. An exit conference is scheduled to take place thereafter, wherein the findings and recommendations will be thoroughly deliberated upon by the COA and CSOs, marking a pivotal step towards charting a more water-secure future for Iligan City.