SPEAKERS at the 27th Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI) identified resource exploitation and food insecurity as ongoing threats to Asia’s economic condition.

In his presentation last Friday, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Chairman Ramon Alikpala said climate change, population growth and increasing urbanization would exacerbate water issues in Asia.

Alikpala shared data from the United Nations describing Asia, which hosts 60 percent of the world’s population, as having the highest annual water withdrawal.

Asia houses 12 of the world’s 21 mega cities, with Manila ranked ninth in the continent and 15th in the world.

“With population growth at almost two percent yearly, sustainable water management in large cities requires a holistic, integrated approach within the region,” Alikpala pointed out.

He mentioned that the Global Water Partnership (GWP) sees cities as becoming important units of integrated water management, given the negative forecasts of urbanization and the pressures on aquatic resources.

GWP projected that water consumption is likely to at least double the size of the world’s urban areas in 2025.

On the other hand, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president for power Jose Alejandro discussed Philippine undertakings in the battle for energy and environmental sustainability.

Clean energy dreams

He said that government measures such as the Biofuels Act of 2006, Renewable Energy Act of 2010, gas explorations and nuclear energy discussions cultivate the country’s potential as a clean energy hub in the world.

Alejandro mentioned that the country, which leads the wind energy production in Southeast Asia, is the world’s second highest geothermal power producer and has the third largest biomass power capacity.

In the same session, senior economist David Dawe of the Food and Agriculture Organization showed that rapid income growth plus decreasing poverty rates equates to a spike in food prices. Based on statistics from the World Bank, East Asia and the Pacific bested five other regions in the world by collectively earning a gross domestic product (GDP) of over seven percent in 1990 to 2011, with poverty rates declining from almost 80 percent in 1981 to less than 20 percent in 2008.

While this was happening, domestic prices of rice, wheat and corn adjusted for inflation increased to an index of almost 150 from 2007 to 2011.

The World Bank cautioned that if this situation continues, the world could experience unstable and higher than average grain prices until at least 2015, which would have a huge negative impact on the economy, especially in Third World countries.

Interconnected issues

Dawe emphasized the need for a developed agricultural sector as a frontline solution to food security.

CACCI executive committee vice chairman Pradeep Kumar Shrestha recognized water management as among the most challenging local crises for business captains across the world.

He stressed that the issue, being interrelated with energy sustainability and food security, creates a general impact on the economy and must be managed efficiently. If not, it will possibly cause the next world war, he said.

He suggested that each country, particularly in Asia, know their strengths and realize which area to focus on to achieve a system-wide impact on the economy.