With no ‘BBB’ funds for water, scarcity feared

THE Philippines is still at risk of experiencing a water crisis due to the bleak water-availability-per-capita situation in the country, according to experts.

This grim scenario came from a policy brief released during the Arangkada Philippines Forum 2018 on Wednesday, authored by former Chairman of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Ramon B. Alikpala and 3M Philippines Government Affairs and Markets Leader Christopher A. Ilagan.

The authors used the projected population of 107 million for 2018 and the fixed renewable fresh water supply of 146 billion cubic meters (BCM) to arrive at the water per-capita availability of 1,553 cubic meters (m3) per year.

“This means the country already falls below the international ‘water stress’ threshold of 1,700 m3/year and is fast approaching the ‘water scarcity’ threshold of 1,000 m3/year,” the
authors said.

Alikpala told the Arangkada Forum that the lack of water supply and sanitation projects in the government’s infrastructure initiative, the “Build, Build, Build,” (BBB) makes the country’s position on water security a cause of concern.

Based on the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) list of flagship projects, one of the major water projects is the P12.2-billion
New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project.

The project is being financed by a loan from the Chinese government and is projected to be completed by 2022, when the President’s
term ends.

The project is “an integrated system that includes the 600-million-liter-per-day Kaliwa Dam, its intake and other appurtenant facilities and a 2,400-MLD capacity raw water conveyance tunnel,” said the Neda.

This will be crucial especially for Metro Manila which, Maynilad Water Services Inc. President and CEO Ramoncito S. Fernandez said, is 96 percent dependent on a single water source—Angat Dam.

Fernandez said the lack of a new source for raw water supply and the recent dry spell have led to levels of water scarcity Metro Manila
last summer.

“We don’t have any “Build, Build, Build” projects in the water sector. It’s interesting, though. In the previous administration, [Rogelio] Babes Singson who was the water czar, said ‘if the government can spend for roads and other infrastructure, why can’t it spend for transmission of water or water supply for provinces? That’s something that should be explored because it will impact on several areas,” Alikpala said.

He said this kind of project will help fourth- and  fifth-class municipalities get access to clean water. The lack of water projects in the BBB, he said, is lamentable.

Meanwhile, Ilagan said the Neda actually has a framework to improve water supply and sanitation nationwide, but more needs to be done to turn this framework into actual projects on the ground.

SDG investment

The policy brief said meeting water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 will require the country to invest P31 billion to P32 billion annually. Around P17 billion of this, Ilagan said, is only for meeting the minimum requirements for water-related indicators which is universal access.

This is a tall order given that the country’s actual investments for municipal/domestic water supply is only P2 billion to P5 billion a year. This means the country spends less than a $1 average capital investment in municipal/domestic water supply. Financing the huge requirements, Ilagan said, cannot be done through the private sector or official development assistance (ODA) alone.

“I think you will need all the funding that you can get. It’s really a question of figuring out what should be funded by ODA and what should be funded by PPPs. Obviously, the private sector will be attracted to projects that have good returns. So there’s a role for everybody,” Ilagan said.

Based on the 2010 Global Water Intelligence figures, only 44.1 percent of the country’s population have Level III access to water, the highest level, and 11.2 percent have Level II access.

Around 32.4 percent have Level 1 access with as much as 12.3 percent of the population having no access to safe water at all.

Water security is Goal 6 of the SDGs. The primary target is to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.

Apart from the primary target, there are five other targets—achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all; improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials; and substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity.

The targets also include implementing integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate and protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.

The SDGs were adopted by 193 United Nations members, including the Philippines, in 2015. The SDGs have 169 targets and 233 indicators. The Philippines has data to monitor only 103 indicators while the rest are either inapplicable or are not available.

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A professional journalist for over a decade, Cai U. Ordinario currently writes macroeconomic and urban development stories for BusinessMirror. She has received awards for excellence in reporting on the macroeconomy and statistics. She was also cited for her contribution to statics reporting by the National Statistical Coordination Board (now the Philippine Statistics Authority). She is a recipient of journalism fellowships including the Jefferson Fellowship from the Honolulu-based East West Center. She is currently completing her Masters degree in Communication at the University of the Philippines. She graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts Major in Journalism from the University of Santo Tomas.