MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Ralph Recto expressed concern over the report of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund that over seven million Filipinos do not have toilets in their homes and have to defecate just about anywhere.
Citing data contained in the “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment” prepared by the two international organizations, Recto noted that some 570,000 Filipinos also use unsanitary facilities such as buckets and open-pit latrines.
This is on top of the 2.3 Filipinos reported to be using untreated surface water from rivers, dams and canals for drinking and another 6.1 million Filipinos who source their drinking water from “unimproved sources” like unprotected wells and springs.
For something as basic as access to drinking water and sanitation, Recto said that these must be included in the national budget for 2016 by the administration.
“This should be part of the assumption of the 2016 budget,” Recto said of the national budget next year, which is expected to breach P3 trillion.
While noting that the Philippines has made great progress in bringing clean water and sanitation since 1990, Recto said that a lot more needs to be done to ensure that every Filipino has access to these two items.
“We have brought clean water to 40 million people since 1990 and 41 million Filipinos have also gained access to clean toilets since that year,” Recto said.
This prompted the WHO and UNICEF to rate the Philippines as having met target Millennium Development Goals on clean water, Recto said.
But as far as sanitation facilities are concerned, Recto said that “due perhaps to the number of people resorting to open defecation,” the Philippines was graded as having merely made “good progress.”
The report describes open defecation as “when human feces are disposed of in fields, forest, bushes, bodies of water or other open spaces.”
“The family cell phone ownership rate in this country is higher than the toilet per household,” Recto said.
Recto said that the national budget should contain specific allocations to clean water and sanitation projects or at least an increase in the amounts given to existing projects for this purpose.
Among the ongoing projects that Recto said should get more funds next year is the construction of toilets and communal drinking faucets in public schools, a component of Basic Educational Facilities program of the Department of Education this year.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government is also administering grassroots-identified water projects.
“To truly gauge how much we are spending for clean water, I think we should identify in the national budget the amounts for clean water because at present, it is lumped together with flood control,” Recto said.
For the current year, Recto noted that around P39 billion was allocated for water resources development and flood control.
Recto said that the national government could also explore “joint ventures” with local governments in building public bathrooms and toilets, which the urban homeless can use.
He also suggested the use of travel tax collections in constructing either free or pay-per-use restrooms along national highways.
To lower the cost of sanitary toilets, Recto said that the Department of Science and Technology could design an affordable, easy-to-produce package.
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