After two years of planning, site explorations and incessant e-mail communications, the Rotary Club of Laoag and the Oregon, USA-based Sweet Home Rotary club finally broke ground last July in the drilling and construction of 10 potable water well systems at different localities in Ilocos Norte and Laoag City, with a P1.8 million funding from a matching grant with the Rotary Foundation.
In the midst of a looming dry spell the country faces, the Laoag Rotarians jumpstarted the implementatiom of the water project at the Santiago Elementary School in Brgy. Santiago, Solsona town July 22, in fitting ground-breaking ceremonies initiated by municipal, barangay and school officials.
Officials and villagers of Brgy. Mabuti, Marcos town the following weekend welcomed the Rotarians in the ground breaking for the second water well on July 28.
Under this Rotary matching grant project, one potable water well system, estimated to cost some P150,000, involves the drilling of 60 to 150 feet of safe drinking water, complete with electrical and manual pump system, including water pipe, storage and distribution components.
Each water well system is expected to be completed and ready for the beneficiaries two weeks from the start of drilling and extraction of potable water.
The Laoag Rotary will proceed with the third water well by November this year and is expected to complete the 10th well before June 2008.
The potable water project is a spin-off from the site explorations and survey of qualified beneficiaries the local Rotarians conducted since 2005 initiated through an individual grant the Rotary Foundation provided to Rotarian Juan Ulep of the Sweet Home Rotary club.
The 79 year-old Ulep, world community service director of Sweet Home Rotary, is a native of Laguna. He arrived in the province early July to personally witness the groundbreaking of the first two wells and is set to fly back to Oregon mid-August to make a report in his home Rotary club, which has been a partner of the Laoag Rotary in earlier projects.
The water well project has a funding of some US$31,000 sourced from the contributions of the Rotary Club of Laoag, the Oregon-based Rotary Clubs of Sweet Home, Greater Corvallis and Lebanon, and with the bulk coming from a matching grant by the Rotary Foundation.
Since 2003, Ulep has been instrumental in bringing to Ilocos Norte international projects through the Rotary that included the shipment of two 40-foot containers of donated textbooks and educational materials, hospital and medical equipment from Oregon, valued at over US$75,000.
According to him, even as the planning and paperworks for the potable water project were underway, a third cargo of donation containing dialysis machines and other medical and dental facilities originally intended for Ilocos Norte was diverted to Honduras in Central America because of the uncertainty whether import taxes will be imposed anew on the third shipment by the local customs bureau.
Ulep said the US-based Rotarians and donors of the second shipment of Rotary-donated goods to Ilocos Norte in 2005 were caught aback with the Philippine government’s policy of taxing donated goods that are intended to benefit the local communities. Then Gov. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. released P100,000 from the provincial coffer as the PGIN’s share in the payment of the value added taxes the Bureau of Customs imposed on the shipment.
Nevertheless, Ulep hinted that the Greater Corvallis Rotary has shown interest in forging a new project with the Laoag Rotary as leaders of this other Oregon-based club are planning to visit Ilocos Norte and check into the progress of the current water well project.
Noel Ramos, Contributor