40M Filipinos no access to freshwater

CEBU. In this file photo, members of a family in Barangay Pardo, Cebu City spend the whole morning on the roadside waiting for the fire truck that will bring them water.
CEBU. In this file photo, members of a family in Barangay Pardo, Cebu City spend the whole morning on the roadside waiting for the fire truck that will bring them water.SunStar File/Alex Badayos

AT LEAST 40 million Filipinos from across the country have no access to freshwater, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Carlos Primo David said Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

In a press conference in Malacañang, David said the majority of the 40 million individuals without access to freshwater are in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm).

They access water from springs, creeks and rain waters.

DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga said they also usually ride a motorbanca to fetch water from the nearest island.

During a sectoral meeting presided by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday, David said they were ordered to come up with a concrete solution to provide sufficient water supply to the underserved.

“Let’s come up with a plan for the 40 million so that they have at least potable water to take in. We need to attend as much as we can, come up with a plan with the remaining 40 million who do not have an assured water supply -- locally sourced water supply,” Marcos said.

David said they are looking into establishing desalination system in small island barangays and other coastal areas for the conversion of seawater to freshwater.

He said they already have a list of 65 island barangays where they will start the desalination process, which can also produce potable water.

“Para siyang pangsala na kung saan ay through pressure ay pipilitin na pumasok iyong tubig dito sa membrane na ito at maiiwan dahil maliliit lang iyong butas noong filter -- maiiwan ang lahat ng salt at ang lalabas lang ay iyong fresh water,” David said.

(It's like a filter that through pressure will force your water to enter this membrane and all the salt will be left because the holes in the filter are small, so the only thing that will come out is the fresh water.)

Despite its resources, the Philippines is considered water-stressed, with an annual average per capita water availability of 1,400 cubic meters (m3), which is lower than the normal threshold of 1,700 m3 per capita every year.

The country needs an annual investment of P119 billion to attain universal access to safe water supply and sanitation services by 2030.

At present, it has only about P6 billion average annual public investment on water infrastructure over the last five years, according to recent data.

Marcos raised the need to reorganize various water agencies for efficient and effective response to water-related challenges.

“That’s really the main solution to that is that we have a national plan because water is a national issue. And it has to be handled on a national scale. It cannot be done by -- so, that I think remains to be a priority that we are able to reorganize the functions,” he said.

“We do the reorganization, we carry on with the hearings and put forward of our proposals in terms of our what need would like, first, if we would want the authority then we can do that immediately, but we, it’s necessary for us to have an overall plan. And, these water authorities, whatever they are, maraming overlap,” Marcos added.

Meanwhile, Marcos instructed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to integrate its flood control management programs with other sectors for effective water management and conservation.

Malacañang said 4,700 flood control projects were completed from July 2022 to 2024 while more than 4,000 are currently being constructed.

The flood control management is vital to conserve and utilize rain waters for other purposes like for irrigation, water supply and power if necessary. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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