Press Release
March 23, 2010

Poor most vulnerable to water crisis - Villar

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar warned yesterday of a looming crisis on safe drinking water, saying the poor will most likely be vulnerable to the scarcity of the life-sustaining resource.

Villar sounded the alarm in the observance of the World Water Day, which emphasized water quality in its awareness campaign "Clean Water for a Healthy World."

"Less and less of our people have access to clean, safe drinking water. The proliferation of purified water stations in the country's major cities says it all - what used to be free, as God would want it to be, now costs almost similarly (depending on where you buy it) to petroleum derivatives such as kerosene and diesel. You could just imagine its impact on the population which is predominantly poor," Villar said.

A 2009 report of the Leadership Group on Water Security in Asia claimed that Asia's water problems are severe - one out of five people (700 million) does not have access to safe drinking water and half of the region's population (1.8 billion people) lacks access to basic sanitation. The report said that as population growth and urbanization rates in the region rise, the stress on Asia's water resources is rapidly intensifying.

"With the onslaught of the El Niño phenomenon, our problems on rice and crops production threatening our food security have just been compounded. We simply cannot survive without clean drinking water, and it is intrinsically linked to health and sanitation, and poverty alleviation. Eventually, it is the poor that will bear the brunt of potable water shortage," added Villar.

According to UNESCO, about 1.5 million children under five die of water-borne diseases every year. UNESCO also pointed out that such diseases added to the financial hardships of the poor, lowered the odds of educating poor children and reduced the chances of breaking the cycle of poverty.

"The next government should make it a priority issue and must pave the way - either through increased public investment or partnership with the private sector, for access to safe water and sanitation. Investments in support of infrastructure for generation and distribution must be fast tracked, and the government must extend its efforts to privatize water services outside of Metro Manila," he said.

He added that government should make drastic efforts to implement environmental laws that seek to protect and preserve our natural resources. He said that our water problem has been aggravated by pollution and unjustifiable destruction of forests and wetlands.

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