The Philippines is ready to commit to a global water sector resilience agenda that ensures a reliable and equitable access to safe water sanitation, improved health, and gender equality.
This was affirmed by no less than the country’s chief steward of the environment and natural resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga in a speech delivered during the ongoing United Nations 2023 Water Conference happening in New York from March 22 to 24.
According to Yulo-Loyzaga, such commitment requires the country to address not only the physical risks through engineering solutions but the ecological socioeconomic, and governance challenges we face as well, pitching that the UN water agenda prioritizes climate resilience through robust, equitable, and sustainable nature positive development pathways.
Yulo-Loyzaga further called for deeper integration of the water agenda into key agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biodiversity, and the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction.
She said such would render the water sector a globally important entry point to scaling up commitments to adaptation financing for reliable and safe water supply, management, and use.
“The Philippines commits to foster knowledge, innovation and just partnerships in watching governance, access to science and form equitable and sustainable financing and engagements with the private sector academia, multilateral development banks and other stakeholders in climate action are being strengthened while recognizing the vital importance of traditional and local knowledge,” she said.
Meanwhile, the official said the Philippines is further advocating the transfer of knowledge through science, technology, engineering, and innovation that addresses the water needs of developing countries while advancing global goals.
“IN this light, we endorse increasing support for the Global Water operator program, which addresses the vulnerabilities and capacity-building needs of water and water sanitation service providers, especially in Asia, Pacific, and Africa,” she said.
“The water sector has the opportunity to lead change and deliver transformative solutions in our quest for climate resilient and sustainable development. Let us all unleash the potential for this today to ensure that no person, no community, no ecosystem is left behind,” she said.
In her speech, the DENR chief said attaining universal, adequate and equitable access to safely managed water and sanitation services are at the core of inclusive and sustainable development.
Yulo-Loyzaga said integrated water resource management approaches that overcome barriers to water and sanitation access and improved health “are therefore imperative.”
“Moreover, risk-informed and transformative governance that increases access and affordability of safe drinking water and sanitation services must be sustained in order to advance health, livelihoods, and the dignity of all while preserving ecosystem integrity for the benefit of generations to come,” she said.
Climate change disruptions
Climate change has disrupted the world’s hydrological cycle, as extreme rainfall, and temperature changes amplify existing social vulnerabilities and threaten biodiversity.
Yulo-Loyzaga said more than ever, there is now a critical need for nexus governance for climate and disaster resilience. “One that pursues a strategic balance between supply and consumption of water for health, food, energy, and environmental security,” she added.
According to Yulo-Loyzaga, the Philippines is moving decisively in this direction.
“Our President has directed the creation of a water resource management office other than the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to achieve water security by integrating the functions of all agencies with water-related mandates,” she said.
She said the Water Resource Management Office is a first in the country’s history, and it’s aligned with new legislation creating an apex body for comprehensive water resource management.
“We are adopting an all hazards and risk-informed integrated water resource management approach to inform national level plans and actions across sectors and scales. Sector-wide guidance for universal access to safe and sufficient, affordable and sustainable water supply, sanitation and hygiene is by 2030 have been completed and the harmonization of these plans is underway,” she said.
Loyzaga added that vertical integration is being pursued to ensure alignment of local government water-related policies and actions with the Philippine Development Plan.
In establishing the National Geospatial database for natural resources, including water, the Philippines hope to achieve cross cutting development goals and improve water resource management down to the community level.
“It underpins our natural capital accounting program and establishes the physical basis of the design of water-related social and infrastructure policies and programs, which aim to ensure that no ecosystem or community is left behind,” she said.
The Philippines ranks fourth among the countries in the world most affected by water-related disasters. Approximately 20 typhoons enter the country each year, bringing torrential rain and flooding as well as waterborne diseases, extreme rainfall events and prolonged periods of drought have impacted our food, water, and energy supply between 2010 and 2019.
According to Loyzaga, damages incurred due to droughts, floods, and storms, amount to over $10 billion water stress and insecurity remain and are threatening to move people further into poverty like other climate-vulnerable developing countries in the world. -30-