Volume 43 Number 8
World Spotlight: A Walk Among the Water Doctors of the Philippines
Thirty-two hours after leaving New Jersey, I arrived in Cebu, Philippines on Oct. 25, 2000. Upon arrival at Lapu-Lapu International Airport, and after traveling halfway around the world, I wasn’t surprised to find that my luggage had taken a different trip. As my driver/guide, Jurek, drove the one-hour ride from Lapu-Lapu to the Cebu Plaza Hotel in Lahug, Cebu, I noticed the land change from flat along the coast to large hills and mountains as we traveled inland. The weather was unbearably hot.
The Philippines officially consists of 7,107 islands of which only 2,000 are inhabited. Only about 500 of the islands are larger than one square kilometer and 2,500 islands aren’t even named. Cebu is the ninth largest island.
The Five Star Cebu Plaza Hotel in the mountains of Lahug was gorgeous. This would be home during my trip. Armed security guards stopped me as I entered the lobby. Then-president of the Philippines, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, had just checked into the Cebu Plaza right before me. Death threats and impeachment against him were common as the Philippines united to remove him from office. I wasn't used to being searched and questioned during a hotel check in, but I understood the political atmosphere. Finally, after arriving in my 15th floor room overlooking the mountains of Lahug, I turned on the TV and watched the local news. Knowing Estrada was five floors above me, I decided it was time to leave the hotel and start my research.
First stop, the SM shopping mall. This modern, four-story mall is home to "Water Care," a full service point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) water store. As the largest and busiest mall on the island of Cebu, the exposure is certainly a plus. Besides sales and service of POU/POE treatment equipment and delivering bottled water, Water Care also offers turnkey commercial water vending systems and offers complete water store training and assistance. It was good to see that Water Care is a member of the Water Quality Association and International Bottled Water Association.
H 2 Zero in Mabolo, Cebu, was my second stop. I was greeted by manager Charisse C. Crisostomo, who explained that H 2 Zero is the only distilled water bottled and refill business on the island of Cebu. Its facility is state-of-the-art. Cost for a five-gallon bottle of distilled water delivered is 100 pesos. The peso's value has been averaging around 48 pesos to the dollar. Thus, approximately $2 will get five gallons of distilled water delivered. Walk-in refills are also available. In business for almost two years, the company also has offices on the islands of Manila and Davao. Currently, the H 2 Zero in Cebu employs 10 people and maintains two trucks. Average daily sales are 700 gallons. Total distilled output bottling capacity is 1,500 gallons per day (gpd).
Lifestream Purification Systems was my third stop. On the ride there, my driver/guide Jurek was asking me a lot of questions about water. Jurek explained that he told his family about me and that I was a doctor. His family asked him, what kind of doctor? He’s "a water doctor," explained Jurek.
Arriving at Lifesteam, I was greeted by manager Ameila Sadeh. Sadeh was very friendly and explained that they had been in business for approximately 1-1/2 years. They have five employees and are a full-service POU/POE sales service and installation business. They also deliver bottled water along with walk-in refills. A small, commercial, reverse osmosis system supplies their bottling plant. Daily sales average 350 gpd.
Cebu's water problems
Tim Delp, owner of Cape Environmental Labs, of Cape May, N.J., performed a complete analysis of samples drawn from the Cebu Plaza Hotel with which I returned. Of the 61 volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) tested, all were less than 0.5 parts per million (ppm). Not surprising as the Cebu Plaza has its own private well, which is located far from the city in the mountains of Lahug. The nitrates tested a 14.4 ppm and the hardness was a whopping 25 grains per gallon (gpg). Only chlorine is used as water treatment by the hotel.
Many other areas, however, of Cebu have serious problems. The threat of bacteria is very real. According to World Health Organization reports, 80 percent of all diseases are waterborne. Many neighborhood water supplies consist of untested and untreated hand pumps connected to shallow wells. Water pressure throughout residential pressurized distribution systems is low.
Within the last two years, the increase of water treatment businesses in Cebu has dramatically increased. The sale of water treatment equipment and bottled water is growing. Water Care in the SM mall has developed some very innovative financing plans. The fear of pollution is driving the interests of the consumers there. The opportunities are apparent. When my trip was over, Jurek had decided that he would like to become a water doctor as well. Currently, he's opening his own water vending store in Cebu. I am sure that Jurek and the other water businesses that I visited will continue to thrive and grow through perseverance and honest, hard work.
1. World FactBook website: http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/pubs.html
2. Peters, Jens, "Philippines-Lonely Planet," 6th Edition, Lonely Planet Publications, Oakland, Calif., 1997.
3. Peplow, Evelyn, "The Philippines," NTC/Contemporary Publishing Co., 1997.
About the author
Jerry Shockey is president of Shockey's Pure Water Systems Inc., of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. He can be reached at (609) 485-2020, (609) 485-0111 (fax) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Philippines at a Glance
Location: Southeastern Asia, archipelago between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam
Climate: Tropical marine; northeast monsoon (November to April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
Population: 81,159,644 (July 2000 est.)
Exports-partners: United States (34 percent), European Union (20 percent), Japan (14 percent), Netherlands (8 percent), Singapore (6 percent) United Kingdom (6 percent) and Hong Kong (4 percent)—1998
Imports partners: United States (22 percent), Japan (20 percent), South Korea (8 percent), Singapore (6 percent), Taiwan (5 percent) and Hong Kong (4 percent)—1998
About Cebu --
Language: Filipino, Cebuano and English
Industries: Copper mining, shipbuilding, steel, cement, rubber, textiles, chemicals, exports, seafood and guitars
SOURCE: World FactBook