Thursday, 11 March 2010

1,000 Olongapo families get running water after 30 years

Henry Empeño
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22834:1000-olongapo-families-get-running-water-after-30-years&catid=45:regions&Itemid=71

OLONGAPO CITY—Until not too long ago, water in two of this city’s villages was considered “gold.”

Now, more than 1,000 families in the hills of Kalaklan and Barretto villages finally have access to running water after waiting 30 years to have the precious commodity flowing through their tap.

This modern-day miracle finally took place after mayoralty candidate Vic Magsaysay mobilized his team of engineers and plumbers to install in the three areas of Dumlao, Skipper and Abra St. about 8.5 kilometers of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes that carried water to the hillside homes.

Connected to a series of large water-storage tanks and several public water stations, the system taps a spring source in the Kalaklan Ridge, a stony spine of land flanking Olongapo to the west and separating Barretto and the upper parts of Kalaklan from the rest of the city.

The new water system was formally opened in an emotional ceremony on Feb. 28, when the beneficiaries told their benefactor of their long wait for water service.

Ligaya Fredericks, 39, said she has lived all her life at Abra St. in Barretto, where a daily bath was a luxury for residents, as the nearest water source was more than 1 km away.

“We used pail and dipper for our shower and we saved the bath water for the toilet. I am quite old already, but it’s only now that I can take a shower at home,” a teary-eyed Fredericks said.

The hilly terrain had made it difficult—and expensive—for the residents to avail themselves of a steady source of water, explained Danny Elayda, a barangay councilor.

“At the water-filling station near the highway, we can buy a drum of water for P13. However, if you hire a water carrier all the way to your house, the drumful of water would now cost P100,” he said. “During summer days when water is scarce, the price goes higher. We sometimes fetched water at the barangay hall, but that is about 5 km away from here.”

Carlito Baloy, a two-term village chief of Barretto, said residents have exhausted all means to convince the city government and the local water utility to provide tap water to these hillside communities.

“We wrote letters, pleaded with officials, and explored all possible ways in the last 30 years so that we could avail ourselves of water service, but all came to naught. This was why we brought our problem to Govic [Magsaysay],” Baloy said.

“Much to our surprise, Govic said he’s going to do it,” Baloy recalled. “And indeed, the following day the pipes arrived, and in one week, there was already water flowing at Dumlao, Skipper and Abra.”

Magsaysay, who served as Zambales governor for several terms before setting his political sights on the mayoralty of Olongapo, told residents during the inauguration of the project that problems in the community “must be solved quickly.”

”We don’t need a lot of documents to implement projects. You need water? There, you have it already,” Magsaysay said, vowing that he would do the same in other areas in the city that still lacked water supply.

“When they told me about the problem, I immediately said I will solve it,’ Magsaysay said. “So I told my engineers, do it in five days. These people have already waited 30 years for this.”

Elayda said she knew Magsaysay would deliver on his promise, but she did not expect it to be ready in five days.

“We were really amazed,” Elayda said. “But we are really glad that some people still keep their promises even to poor people like us.”

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