"Poor water quality has large economic and quality of life costs, both now and in the future, in terms of health impacts and foregone revenues. Clean water is an integral part of the strategy for reducing poverty and achieving Millennium Development Goals in the Philippines," says World Bank Philippines Country Director Robert Vance Pulley at the launch of the Philippine Environment Monitor 2003 on Water Quality.
According to the Government's monitoring data, just over 36 percent of the country's river systems are classified as sources of public water supply and that 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 also caused by water-borne sources, and many areas are experiencing a shortage of water supply, during the dry season.
Untreated wastewater affects health by spreading disease-causing bacteria and viruses, makes water unfit for drinking and recreational use, threatens biodiversity, and deteriorates overall quality of life. Known diseases caused by poor water include gastro-enteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, and more recently, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The numbers of water-related health outbreaks including deaths are going up, as reported in the newspapers the past few months.
Losses due to environmental damage in terms of compensation and claims are on the rise in the Philippines. Nearly 2.2 million metric tons of organic pollution is produced annually by domestic (48 percent), agricultural (37 percent), and industrial (15 percent) sectors. In water-critical regionsóNational Capital Region (Metro Manila), Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and Central Visayasówater pollution is dominated by domestic and industrial sources. The annual economic losses caused by water pollution are estimated at PhP67 billion (US$1.3 billion), including PhP3 billion for health, PhP17 billion for fisheries production, and PhP47 for tourism.
To improve water quality, the Monitor suggests that the Philippines needs to
- Make a systematic attempt to raise public awareness of the health and economic impacts of poor water quality and encourage participation in decision-making as well as a systematic collaboration and consensus building across sectors, and among affected stakeholders, to agree on priorities and adoptable measures;
- Improve wastewater management in urbanized and coastal tourist centers by expanding service connections to cover all connectable properties, constructing sewerage facilities in target areas, promoting intermediate solutions, and creating smaller collection and treatment systems;
- Stimulate revenue and investments by increasing wastewater fees, implementing the "polluter pays principle," creating incentives for private sector participation, and;
- Enact effective regulations, specifically, the Clean Water Act, with clear implementing rules and regulations.
Luiz Tavares, World Bank Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist, says "One action that can make a tremendous difference is the inclusion of sewerage charges in the water supply bill."
Adds Jitendra Shah, World Bank Senior Environmental Engineer and principal author of the Environment Monitor, "The pending Clean Water Act is a monumental step towards an integrated approach, taking into account social, economic, and environmental considerations, to prevent , abate, and control water pollution in the country."
In conjunction with the launch of the Water Monitor, the World Bank, in partnership with DENR and USAID, also organized a roundtable discussion to facilitate stakeholders from Congress, LGU executives, donors, and civil society to build consensus and find areas for concrete collaboration. As part of its knowledge dissemination and advocacy strategy, DENR and the World Bank are also planning information and education activities to further disseminate the findings and key messages of the report to other stakeholders and encourage public advocacy and participation.
Printed copies of the Philippine Environment Monitor 2003 will soon be available at Knowledge for Development Centers (KDCs) nationwide.
For more details, visit http://www.worldbank.org.ph