MAKATI CITY – “Let’s be water vigilant and utilize it efficiently and effectively and conserve it because water is life and the access to potable, clean, accessible water is a basic human right.” This was Sen. Loren Legarda’s concluding statement to wrap up her keynote speech at a media forum on water security conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati on Wednesday, February 8.
Being the senate climate change committee chair, Sen. Legarda actively made talks about environmental issues and brought them to national attention. Following her privilege speech about water security at the senate on February 6, she also talked about the same issue during the journalist and media forum.
She, together with Mr. Clay Epperson, USAID Philippines’ deputy mission director, acknowledged media as partners for change. “You have a crucial role to play because you are the opinion makers, and you are what create a scandal or a national policy,” said Sen. Legarda, referring to the members of the press. She also challenged them to make a ‘water scandal’ on their platforms so that water security would be taken seriously by both local and national government.
“Water is a basic need yet it is a resource that we have taken for granted”, the senator emphasized to the media people and representatives of local government units.
In her speech, Sen. Legarda also cited statistics that 3 million Filipino families still don’t have access to safe water supply, and that 8 million Filipinos still practice open defecation based on a DOH report. These were some of the issues she pointed out that need to be addressed.
Speaking about the natural spots developed into tourism sites, Sen. Legarda expressed her dismay that the state of environment is sacrificed. “We just destroy a crown jewel of our country in the name of tourism,” expressed the senator, citing Boracay as an example of ‘complete disregard of nature and complete apathy and mismanagement’.
“Yes, it provides livelihood, but would it not have been better if it was managed better and correctly from the start by having a complete water infrastructure, and implementing solid waste management activities, and being strict about water utilization and solid waste segregation and source recycling and composting?” she continued.
Sen. Legarda mentioned some possible solutions that the community and government can take on, such as establishing rainwater harvest facilities in the community level for domestic use.
The senator also proposed for a more effective implementation of R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law on the barangay levels, which she authored as a strategic solution to problems on sanitation, water scarcity and other interrelated environmental issues. Furthermore, she found it important to have a national center for water to coordinate everyone’s effort in establishing a comprehensive roadmap for water security.
Reiterating the importance of water management, she told the media practitioners and representatives of government agencies: “Let us not wait for the well to be dry before we act because by then, it would have been already too late.”
On the other hand, Sen. Loren Legarda lauded the USAID for their partnership to the Philippines and showing commitment to help the country achieve universal access to safe water.
During the forum, a handbook for reporting on water security was also launched that will guide journalists and lawmakers understand the water situation and take positive actions on the issue.
It is also worth noting that USAID, through their Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability (Be Secure) Project also provided technical assistance to the local government unit of Ormoc City in establishing the city’s own septage treatment facility which started its construction at Brgy. Green Valley on September last year.
– Joseph Pilapil/City Media Relations Office