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Crucial battles over water

Governance experts predict the next world war will be fought not over oil, but over water. In the Philippines, there are already crucial battles over this issue.

On Nov. 20, during the National Conference on Water Security organized by the Climate Change Commission (CCC), the Movement for Water Security (MWS) identified the good forces fighting the bad forces in these battles. The 400 conference participants shouted in unison “mabuhay!” when the good forces were identified. When the bad forces were named, they shouted “mahiya ka!” It was a unifying moment when the participants expressed their keen resolve to fight and win the battles for effective water governance.

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Given the perils of climate change as stated by Dr. Rosas Perez of the CCC and National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE), the sad state of water governance will even worsen sans a corresponding climate change action.

Our critical water situation is evidenced by as follows:  70 people die every day due to water-related causes (more than 10 times the victims of extrajudicial killings); with nine million having no access to safe water and 19 million with no access to sanitation, populations are at risk of intestinal worm infection; we have a total of 34 water-related agencies, yet they are uncoordinated and they don’t have a national road map.

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The MWS identified the good water forces in government. Foremost is CCC Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman. As chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, he led 44 developing nations in convincing the world to agree to limiting global warming to 1.5-degree Celsius. They overturned the 2-degree Celsius level initially proposed by several developed countries. De Guzman argued the 1.5-degree goal was “nonnegotiable because it is a matter of life and death for Filipinos.”

Other good government forces include Sen. Loren Legarda, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Likewise identified were the good nongovernment forces. They are MWS leaders from the private sector such as the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Philippine Industries, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines and the Rotary Club of the Philippines.

From civil society (farmers, fishers, women, indigenous peoples), they come from organizations such as Alyansa Agrikultura (42 federations and organizations), Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan coming from 38 provinces, Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines and the Girl Scouts of the Philippines.

In a private lunch with De Guzman and Nograles, MWS leaders requested more urgent action from other government officials.

The bad forces were, of course, the illegal loggers and government officials who collude with each other.

Nograles immediately followed up by scheduling a meeting on Nov. 29 to discuss initiatives to protect our water resources. The stakeholders will discuss priority recommendations that emerged during previous water summits, as collated by National Water Resource Board Executive Director  Sevilio David and University of the Philippines Los Baños Interdisciplinary Studies Center for Water Director Patricia Santos.

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Also to be discussed will be the budget for 18 major river basins which currently have no funds for full-time personnel and equipment, as well as a proposed water governance improvement scorecard to be filled out by stakeholders and submitted to the President and Congress for action.

With this kind of swift action, the good forces are likely to win over the bad forces during the coming crucial battles.

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TAGS: water, water crisis, world war
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