Press Release
March 22, 2023

Pia: What are our country's programs and plans to address water insecurity?
Highlights of Senator Pia S. Cayetano's privilege speech on 'World Water Day' (March 22)

Thank you, Mr. President.

I acknowledge the graciousness of our colleagues to allow me to deliver my speech. The Majority Floor Leader could attest that I never ask to change the agenda, I never ask to be bumped up - except today. I used the birthday card, your honors. But I promise you that this will be short and sweet, and very productive. March 22, my birthday, is actually World Water Day. And to my recollection, I never celebrated my birthday during session. I mean, my birthday has always fallen during the break. So it is a privilege indeed for me to be able to deliver this speech on World Water Day in session.

Your honors, I'll keep this short. I think all of us can agree that this matter, which I stand up before you on personal and collective privilege, is very important. In the news, and I believe the Majority Floor Leader filed a resolution or filed something on a bill, we have data that show that 11 million Filipinos do not have clean water. Now, in the recent [Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly] that I attended on behalf of the Senate, it was established that "women and girls are disproportionately impacted not only by water scarcity, but by climate-related disasters in general, especially when they threaten national and regional peace and security, causing forced migration, displacements and increased poverty. [Women and girls are] more vulnerable to gender-based violence and other violations of women's human rights with often no access to support systems."

So I deliver this speech, your honors, emphasizing that these are very much connected to our Sustainable Development Goals.

On SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being. Obviously, kung walang malinis na tubig, it's hard to be healthy. If I am not mistaken, the major cause of infant mortality is diarrhea, which is caused by lack of access to clean water.

On SDG 5, Gender Equality. I already explained that there is enough evidence, and it was the topic of discussion in the entire IPU, that women and girls are disproportionately affected. Kasi alam n'yo, your honors, girls usually ang inuutusan mag-igib ng tubig. Even in the Bible, pinapakita doon na na-meet ni Jesus ang isang babae sa well, kasi it's a gender role. Not to say na hindi naman tumutulong ang mga lalaki. But it tends to be a gender role.

SDG 6 is specific to Clean Water and Sanitation. And SDG 10 is Reduced Inequalities.

The Philippines, being a signatory to the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, is committed to integrate the SDGs into our national development plans and policies. So as I said, 11 million families lack access to clean water in the country, according to the National Water Resource Board.

Your honors, when I was not yet a senator, I lived in Bagumbayan, Taguig, where our colleague, my brother [Senator Alan Cayetano] and his wife, [Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano], still live. And would you believe, I found out, much to my distress, I was a young lawyer at the time, that many homes did not even have the basic water facilities. Kasi wala palang tubig. So why will they bother investing in a sink when wala palang tubig? Wala ring flush. But now, meron. Thank God, mayroon naman tayong tubig sa Taguig City but there are still many places in the country where there are no direct sources of water.

I will move on, I will submit my full speech for the record, your honors. But I am just emphasizing the important points.

A gender-segregated space for women and girls is not only about sanitation, but it is also about safety. Sharing facilities with the opposite gender puts women and girls at risk of abuse and assault. So that's something to be considered in our planning, your honors. Lalo na yung kulang na kulang yung facilities, share-share, tapos sa gabi, can you imagine, madilim sa gabi, magpupunta mag-isa doon ang batang babae. Meron talagang risk po rito, your honors. A clean and functional bathroom with access to sanitary products is necessary for women and girls to manage their menstrual hygiene and pregnancy as well.

So your honors, it is important that when we think of clean water and sanitation, we must also see it through a gender lens. Like most crises, the effects are never gender-neutral, and the effects on women are proportionally higher than men. The water crisis today is worsened by the climate crisis and global warming.

To address water insecurity in the country, the national government has taken steps to mitigate it and provide a sustainable water supply to all. NEDA in 2019 released the Philippine Water Supply and Sanitation Master Plan. This serves as the national action plan to achieve universal access. DOH as well has in its 2023 Environmental and Occupational Health Line Item, P86.1M is allotted under this line item in 2023.

I must end simply, your honors, by saying that all of you who work on the budget can attest that we must do more in terms of budgetary support for access to clean water and not just that, your honors. I speak as your Chai of the Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. Ano ang future ng Pilipinas kung wala tayong sapat na tubig?

When I was the Chair of the Committee on Environment, in my first term in the Senate in 2004, I had the privilege of doing a study visit in Singapore where they showed me their complete plan for water security. This included desalination, importation of water through the use of big pipes, and finally, it included cleaning sewage water. I assume it's still there, and I invite all of you to go. Let's go on a field trip because it was very educational for me. If I recall correctly, it was called NEWater. New, bagong tubig. Pero galing po ito sa sewage. Baka malakas lang ang loob ko, pero ang mga kasama ko, they were scared to drink it. But I drank it because I trust the process. I trust science, technology. Ang tanong ko is, are we doing any of those three? Any? Do we have serious desalination programs? I don't know if we need to go to the extent of importing water. Are we cleaning our water? So andami-dami pa nating pwedeng gawin.

And I hope forever na matatak sa ating kaisipan ang kahalagahan ng tubig. Lalo na kapag naalala n'yo ako, on March 22, my birthday, it is World Water Day. I will end on that note. Thank you for the greetings and your support, your honors. Thank you, Mr. President.

[Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri interjected]

Mr President, thank you so much for that. May I ask that because my speech is related, I precisely showed how it is related to all the SDGs. I would like to hear this, with due respect to any other committee that wants to focus on water. But I am offering my service to the Senate. If you want me to be the one to take the lead in these hearings, I am happy. If not, I can focus on SDGs, whatever is the pleasure of the body, your honor.

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