On World Water Day 2011



March 22, 2011


Mr. President, today is International World Water Day. International World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. It is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.

Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. UN-Water has chosen Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge for World Water Day 2011. This is to address the worsening problem of management of urban water and waste. This is also in line with Millennium Development Goal 7 for environment sustainability, which is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.


Mr. President, water pollution in the Philippines is a growing problem due to rapid urbanization and industrialization. According to the Philippine Environment Monitor report of the World Bank in 2003, domestic wastewater contributes 48 percent of the total pollution in the entire country; the rest is due to industrial and agricultural sources. In Metro Manila, the share of domestic sewage is 58 percent of the total. Due to insufficient sewage treatment and disposal, more than 90 percent of the sewage generated in the Philippines is not disposed or treated in an environmentally acceptable manner.

The same report estimates that water pollution costs the Philippine economy an estimated P67 billion (US$1.3 billion) annually, of which P3 billion is attributed to health, P17 billion to fisheries production, and P47 billion to tourism. Statistics from Philippine Department of Health show that approximately 18 people die each day from water-borne diseases, which accounted for 31% of all reported illnesses from 1996-2000.

Thus, Mr. President, in 2004, Republic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act was enacted. It is an integrated, holistic, decentralized and participatory approach to abating, preventing and controlling water pollution.


Mr. President, the Clean Water Act created the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, which I currently co-chair with Representative Dan Fernandez. The Oversight Committee has conducted two committee hearings with a third scheduled tomorrow (Wednesday, March 23).

Mr. President, we are hard-pressed to improve our water quality situation today. During our committee hearings, we found out that enforcement is weak due to several factors — inadequate resources, institutional fragmentation, and poor statistics.

Inadequate Resources
According to the Philippine Environment Monitor Report of the World Bank in 2006, to reach the MDG for water and sanitation, an investment of P6 to P7 billion pesos per year is necessary for water while an average of P25 billion per year in investments is necessary for sanitation and sewerage to improve the current situation by 2015. However, according to the Philippine Water Supply Sector Roadmap of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), only around P3 billion to P5 billion is invested in water supply and sanitation with a minimal amount, around P500 million, spent for sewerage and sanitation investments.

Mr. President, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), through their two water concessionaires have had some recent success in developing sewerage networks and treatment plants in Metro Manila. However, outside Manila, the focus of the more than 200 operational water districts is solely on water supply, not sanitation services.

Institutional Fragmentation
There are too many hands dipping in the broth, so to speak. Around thirty (30) government agencies are involved in the management of our water resources. The gaps, overlaps and conflicts of responsibilities are apparent during the conduct of our hearings, making the institutional framework highly fragmented, weak and complicated. In line with this, I filed PS Resolution No. 72 last August 10, 2010 directing the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources to look into the current fragmentation of water resources planning and management given the lack of a water regulatory body to address the water issues in our country today.

Mr. President, part of the priority bills discussed during the LEDAC conducted last February 28 are bills on the Water Sector Reform Act, which in the Senate are referred primarily to the Committee on Public Services. We join the call for the early approval of these bills.

Poor Statistics
The dearth of reliable data regarding the status of water in our country makes management more difficult. Amazingly, we are still using the data circa 1998 from the Master Plan on Water Resources Management in the Philippines by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in order to manage our water resources. Mr. President, I believe the data have already been overtaken by the rapid rate of urbanization and have been rendered obsolete. The time is ripe for the Government to conduct its own study in order to have a more realistic picture of our water resources today.


The United Nations recently declared the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a fundamental human right. It is the Government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the enjoyment of the right to water. As such, it is high time that we devote the much-needed attention to this basic need. The work before us is tremendous. But the importance of water to our people and our country cannot be undervalued.

Thank you Mr. President. #

Photo: Sen. Pia Cayetano inspects the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System in Bulacan as Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resurces in 2007.

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