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COMMENTARY

No alternative to water

05:07 AM February 06, 2018

There are alternatives to gas and oil, but there is no alternative to water.” This statement should motivate urgent action to address our country’s water crisis. Crisis, because 70 people die every day from water-related diseases. Sixteen million Filipinos have no access to safe drinking water. Our rain harvesting rate is only 4 percent compared to India’s 60 percent in certain areas. Some 5.7 million hectares of denuded forest lands and 300,000 hectares of lost mangroves cause massive flooding. And 34 of our water-related government agencies are not properly coordinated.

On April 16, 2016, then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte committed to address our water crisis to the five leaders of the five-coalition Agri Fisheries Alliance (AFA). After action was taken with some water-related agencies, an organizational water meeting was held in Malacañang on June 20, 2017. Participants were the government’s executive branch (Neda, DENR, DA, DILG, and the Office of the Cabinet Secretary), the legislature (Senate and the House of Representatives), and the private sector (AFA and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry). Subsequently, seven water pre-summits were held in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Five were on the sectors where the Philippines landed in the bottom third of an Asian Development Bank study covering 48 countries in both 2013 and 2016. These sectors were: Domestic/household, economics, environment, urban, and resilience. Two other sectors of particular importance to the Philippines were added: Governance and agriculture.

It is commendable that these pre-summits will not result in Nato (No Action-Talk Only. On Nov. 24, Convenor Chair Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia called a meeting of the seven management teams which would be responsible for each sector’s progress in 2018. Each team is composed of a government official assigned from an identified government department, a UPLB dean who is the main author of a sector study with recommendations, and a private sector leader.

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They will report their progress to Secretary Pernia every quarter on March 29, June 28, Sept. 27 and Dec. 20. Each team volunteered not only to give progress reports, but also to rate their success on a one to five scale. The table below shows each sector’s team, with guidance from UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez and NWRB director Bill David.

With the three-person management team from the government, the academe, and the private sector, our water crisis will now be effectively addressed. There is no choice, because there is no alternative to water.

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