A year after the government declared a state of public health emergency placing the country in lockdown and community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to adequate and safe water remains scarce.
Currently, some millions of Filipinos still rely on unsafe and unsustainable water sources and lack access to proper sanitation facilities, with only around 91% of the population having access to a safe and sufficient water supply. This remains inequitably distributed, particularly in rural areas.
Over the years, several environmental and economic issues threaten our access to water—we have seen drastic shortages in Metro Manila and other highly-urbanized cities, and how the effects of climate change deplete the freshwater sources from which communities in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas depend. These issues were further emphasized last year when the pandemic hit, when the need for water and the importance of sanitation has never been greater, with handwashing as our first line of defense to keep us safe from COVID-19.
Despite the challenges these realities bring about, the Department of the Interior and Local Government continues to pursue its commitment to provide universal access to safe water and sanitation to local government units nationwide.
Through its water supply and sanitation programs, such as Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig sa Lahat (SALINTUBIG) (2012 - 2020), Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) (2013 - 2015), and Assistance to Municipalities (AM) (2017-2020), a total of 1,430 projects were completed in 2020 despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic—resulting in a total of 7,460 water supply and sanitation projects completed under the Department since 2012—giving 3.9 million households access to safe water and sanitation. To date, there are still 899 projects underway in different stages of implementation, which are targeted to be completed within the year, resulting in a total of 8,359 completed water supply and sanitation projects by the end of the year.
As we celebrate World Water Day this March 22, we are reminded of the importance of protecting our fast-depleting water resources, and the urgency to realize the vision of universal access to safe water. In 2021, the Department continues these initiatives on assisting LGUs to provide potable water and proper sanitation facilities through its Financial Assistance to Local Government Units (FALGU) Program and Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP), prioritizing low-income waterless communities in conflict areas, as identified by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Included in the Programs are the provision of funding for water and sanitation infrastructure, and capacity development activities aimed at strengthening the institutional capacities of local government units and water service providers, from water infrastructure planning and programming, operations and maintenance, and in ensuring the sustainability of the water supply systems. This is in hopes that, by 2030, access to safe and sufficient water supply is a reality for every Filipino in the country.