Filed under: water
March 22 marked yet another milestone for the Philippine environment as water took its front seat in the national legislative, through the enactment of the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 (Republic Act No. 9275), during the National Water Forum in celebration of the World Water Day.
Undeniably, this year’s observance of the World Water Day justly magnified the importance of water and its contribution to the sustenance of life on Earth, and, the National Water Forum’s theme “Securing Our Future: Effectively Managing Water Now” is nothing short of a wake-up call, a reminder for all to collectively manage this precious natural resource.
Now for the future… Indeed, water is of primal concern, and it is up to the leaders and citizens of today to act, preserve, revive, and save this once-pristine resource.
Water is life and its quality dictates the state of living all over the world. The state of water in the Philippines, an archipelago endowed with lush natural resources, has tremendously gone low over the last years, as effected by urbanization and industrialization, and the rapid growth of human population. World Bank’s Philippines Environment Monitor 2003 revealed four urban regions of the country, the National Capital Region (Metro Manila), Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and Central Visayas, as critical in terms of water quality and quantity. Moreover, the report indicated the following:• Just over a third or 36 percent of the country’s river systems are classified as sources of public water supply;• Up to 58 percent of groundwater sampled is contaminated with coliform and needs treatment;
• Approximately 31 percent of illnesses monitored for a five-year period were caused by water-borne sources; and,
• Many areas are experiencing a shortage of water supply during the dry season.
The facts provide a clear view of the crisis the Philippines is faced with, dilemmas not only in terms of water quality, but also of sufficient water supply.
Water is a priority, and each sector must do something to address such a predicament.
Rescuing the Shore
In observance of the World Water Day, the Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Elisea Gozun, as chair to the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) led the National Water Forum, congregating leaders from different government agencies, academic and research institutions, multi-lateral and bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) partners, international organizations, legislative, media, NGOs, and the civil society.
The Forum, with its 300 participants, became a venue for the presentation and discussion of priority actions and policy recommendations set by government agencies in the water sector. Issues put in focus include the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM); Domestic Water Supply and Sanitation; Water for Food and Rural Development; Water-Related Disaster; and, Risk Mitigation and Water Demand Management.The National Water Forum was held in agreement with the Ministerial Declaration during the 1st Ministerial Meeting on “Managing Water Resources” at the First Southeast Asia Water Forum held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in November 21, 2003, advocating IWRM implementation, basin approach, taking into account the critical role water resources play in the country’s socio-economic development.
Moreover, the World Water Day served as the most opportune time to enact the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 (Republic Act No. 9275), the law which would improve water quality in the Philippines. The President, Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, signed the Act in a ceremonial signing at the Kalayaan Hall in Malacañang, mandating the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to implement a comprehensive water management program to guarantee effective water utilization and conservation.
The DENR will serve as the primary government agency responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Act, in coordination with the local government units, and the following: Department of Health, Department of Science and Technology, NWRB, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Coast Guard, Local Water Utilities and Administration, Metropolitan Water and Sewerage System, Laguna Lake Development Authority, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Philippine Information Agency.
Securing our Future
Water is life – a resource which provides for the Earth the capacity to sustain lives, and with the status of our waters at hand, its conservation is no longer an option. Water conservation is an obligation among each and every citizen, with the government leading the path. As the theme for the National Water Forum suggests, let us all join hands and effectively manage our waters… now, for our future.
National Water Forum 2004. “Securing Our Future: Effectively Managing Water Now”. DENR. 2004.
Philippine Environment Monitor 2003. Water Quality. The World Bank Group. December 2003
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