NEGRENSES are fortunate to have leaders who timely create concrete strategies and collaborate with partners on important concerns like water security and the need to support displaced and stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as a result of the pandemic. My network of advocates had constantly brought to my keen interest and close personal attention various undertakings of the provincial government of Negros Occidental on these two advocacies this June.
Since I am the author of the Bacolod Watershed Protection and Water Conservation Ordinance and the Bacolod Inter-Agency Council Against Human Trafficking Ordinance, which creates a Migrants' Desk, these two policy directions are close to my heart.
Last June 17, the province partnered with Voice of the Free Foundation and ARISE Foundation based in the United Kingdom as well at the OFW Federation of Negros Occidental for the distribution of cash assistance and food packs to displaced migrant workers due to the pandemic.
As chairman of the board of VF, I had the honor to join Governor Jose Eugenio Lacson during the activity and give a message. In his speech, the governor cited migration as a global reality and that in the Philippines, it has become a vital part of our national development strategy; and while the increase of the number of migrant workers resulted to a corresponding increase of overseas remittance in millions of dollars, the violations of their rights also grew.
The governor lamented the fact that undocumented OFWs are rendered virtually unprotected, and their basic rights violated with impunity in many countries. Countless numbers experience all sorts of abuse and exploitation, especially Filipino women migrants working in the service sector. Thousands of incidents of abuses are officially reported and thousands more go unreported for lack of access to agencies concerned with migrant affairs.
He said the Covid crisis worsened the issues and problems of migration. Hundreds of thousands Filipino migrant workers are displaced all over the world, and as much as we want to completely address this concern, fact remains that Philippines cannot absorb all our workers locally. Thus, the pressing need to create more economic opportunities in the country.
Given the enormity of the issues affecting Filipino migrant workers, the governor believes that to effectively address the problems of migrant workers, a multi-agency approach is needed, and that no single agency or sector can claim mastery and authority on this matter.
He thanked the initiative of VF for creating Work-Skills Connect-Negros Occidental Program. From my end, it is a privilege to have designed the concept of Work-Skills Connect for VF and initially pilot the program in Negros Occidental.
In another project last June 8, the Environmental Provincial Integrated Water Security Program was launched at the Social Hall of the Provincial Capitol here in Bacolod City.
As an environmentalist, I fully support this project and requested for some insights from the provincial government from the launch. The Provincial Government of Negros Occidental and USAid has signed a Memorandum of Understanding last November 2020 to improve water security of Negros Occidental and to leverage their respective strengths, expertise, technologies and resource in order to increase access to resilient water supply among water stress communities, to improve water resource management to ensure sustainable supply; and to strengthen water sector governance.
The results of the baseline study conducted by Safe Water Project showed that there are still gaps when it comes to access to water supply and sanitation services. The said gaps include water supply services, or that 25 percent of the population has no access to water supply; and sanitation services or that 18 percent of the population has no access to services, funding requirement and water supply and sanitation.
Several threats to our water security have also been identified such as water scarcity, fragmented transboundary water resource management and climate change which will lead to watershed vulnerabilities. The results of the Climate Risk Assessment conducted by Safe Water shows that Bago River Watershed is vulnerable to drought and Malogo River Watershed is vulnerable to flooding and landslide.
In the study, various urgent strategies were identified such as the need to intensify forest protection and conservation by targeting reforestation and enrichment planting in rechange areas of these watersheds. The province considers the hydrologic study conducted by Safe Water, a partner organization in the program, will help make informed decisions in the implementation of strategic projects for watersheds.
Safe Water will provide technical support to the provincial government in the process of crafting a Provincial Integrated Water Security Plan. Simultaneously, the province has allotted a budget for the implementation of strategic water security projects to be piloted in identified areas in Malogo River Watershed. Malogo is prioritized since this is the area that was greatly affected by heavy flooding on the onset of year 2021. An estimated 18,000 people were affected and an estimated total loss of P45 million in agriculture. These initiatives in Malogo River Watershed will also be implemented in other watersheds in the succeeding years to ensure water security. The province is calling all sectors to collaborate in order to achieve a water secure future in the province.