Press Release
January 18, 2013


Senator Edgardo J. Angara called on the government to invest in water and sanitation projects as he expressed serious concern over the deteriorating state of sanitation in the country.

Angara said that poor sanitation remains a perennial problem in the Philippines as 26 million Filipinos, roughly 30 percent of the total population, still have no access to clean toilets and other sanitation facilities.

"Every person deserves access to clean water and sanitation facilities," emphasized Angara. "In the absence of such, people dangerously expose themselves to sickness and disease."

He noted that out of 26 million Filipinos, 7.4 million still defecate behind bushes, on fields, into plastic bags, along ditches or highway tracks. Most of these individuals are from the rural areas of Masbate, Northern Samar, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In a survey conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization, it showed that around 5,000 children in the world die everyday due to diseases such as cholera, dysentery, pneumonia, and malnutrition brought by open defecation practices and lack of sanitary toilets. In the country, the number of people who practice open defecation has increased 12 percent in the last 10 years.

"To address this problem, we need to undertake deep structural water reforms to improve the country's sanitation facilities and sewerage systems because water goes hand in hand with access to improved sanitation," stressed Angara, vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

The veteran lawmaker added, "The longer these people are unable to use proper toilet facilities and other waste disposal systems, the longer they get exposed to problems born out of poor sanitation. Our inaction in this regard comes at a very high cost."

In its 2008 Economic Assessment of Sanitation Interventions (EASI), the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank estimated that the Philippines loses around US$1.4 billion per year, as economic costs of poor sanitation and hygiene.

"The current setup of the country's water and sanitation industry is very fragmented and inefficient with jurisdictions overlapping one another. A measure has to be passed to comprehensively restructure the way we manage our water and sanitation services," he said.

Angara authored Senate Bill 2997 or the Water Sector Reform Act (WSRA) which aims to put up a framework for efficiently managing the country's water resources by adopting the Integrated Water Resources Management approach of the Global Water Partnership (GWP).

The measure also seeks to organize the country into Provincial Water Resource Zones (PWRZs), with certain portions structured into River Basin Clusters (RBCs), so that water service and sanitation projects can be better organized and managed.

Angara concluded, "Without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, we will not be able to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals. Hence, we need to augment the budget for basic services such as education, health and sanitation. Water and sanitation should always be at the core of our broad social welfare program."

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