MANILA, Philippines - Some 16 million Filipinos from 432 waterless municipalities outside Metro Manila have no access to adequate safe drinking water.
This was revealed by Secretary Jesse M. Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday, March 22, designated as World Water Day.
According to Robredo, out of the 444 operational water districts in the country, only 53 are able to give more than 50% water service coverage.
Municipalities deemed waterless are those with less than 50% water service coverage.
"Not all families have safe drinking water. Children are the most vulnerable and at risk of water-borne diseases and poor health due to lack of access to quality potable water," Robredo said.
Worldwide, the situation isn't any better.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement for World Water Day, said, "Over the past decade, the number of urban dwellers who lack access to a water tap in their home or immediate vicinity has risen by an estimated 114 million, and the number of those who lack access to the most basic sanitation facilities has risen by 134 million. This 20% increase has had a hugely detrimental impact on human health and on economic productivity: people are sick and unable to work."
Challenge to governments
Robredo urged local government units (LGUs) to prioritize addressing the water supply problem.
"The provision of safe water should be top priority, but the challenge is for local leaders to set up potable water supply systems in their localities," he said.
"Marami sa kanayunan ang walang malinis na maiinom na tubig. Ang realidad ay kapos ang ilang lokal na pamahalaan sa pondo. Maaring hindi madali ang pagpapagawa ng mga local water supply system pero hindi naman ito imposible. Sa tamang prayoridad sa paggamit ng pondo, sa pagiging maparaan at sa pagtutulungan ng lahat ng sektor, maaring maisagawa ito," Robredo added.
The UN Secretary-General also appealed to governments to do something about the water crisis.
"On World Water Day, I urge governments to recognize the urban water crisis for what it is--a crisis of governance, weak policies and poor management, rather than one of scarcity. Let us also pledge to reverse the alarming decline in pro poor investment in water and sanitation. And let us reaffirm our commitment to ending the plight of the more than 800 million people who, in a world of plenty, still do not have the safe drinking water or sanitation they need for a life in dignity and good health," he said.
Robredo said there is a program jointly being implemented by the DILG, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), and National Water Resources Board (NWRB) targeted at waterless municipalities: the MDGF 1919 or "Enhancing Access To and Provision of Water Services to the Poor."
Through this program, technical assistance is being extended to 36 waterless municipalities by the DILG's Office of Project Development Services.