Speech of President Aquino celebrating World Water Day

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the 2011 World Water Day celebrations, and the Joint Program on Millennium Development Goal Achievement
[Delivered at the Mall of Asia, Pasay City, on March 22, 2011]
P-NoyImage via WikipediaFor a country surrounded by water, it is quite ironic for the Philippines to be threatened by water scarcity. About 16 million Filipinos still do not have access to safe, sustainable supplies of water. Needless to say, this lack of water is a threat to national development. The shortfalls in the quantity and quality of infrastructure, including water supply and sanitation facilities, are critical constraints to our economic growth and poverty alleviation measures. Despite fund allocations for water, the number of waterless municipalities outside Metro Manila has increased. Furthermore, throwing of garbage and pouring of sewage into our bodies of water—which pollute our waterways and facilitate the spread of fatal and infectious diseases—remain prevalent, especially in highly urbanized areas.
([Coughs] Excuse me. That’s why I need water also [applause] … let me take a little more … .)
The results: polluted bodies of water, environmental degradation, malnutrition, and sometimes, death. In short, despite being an archipelago, we are a nation thirsty for clean, potable water, and a nation thirsty for change.
Today, as we celebrate World Water Day 2011, we have, for the moment, quenched this thirst. Through the joint efforts of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), we have inched closer to fulfilling the advocacies of the Millennium Development Goal Achievement Program (MDG F-1919).
As we worked to enhance the delivery of water to 36 waterless municipalities in 12 provinces, we did not only increase the projected investments in water supply for waterless communities, we ultimately improved their health and sanitation. These recommendations that have been gathered are important. Our LGUs and key officials in government will be equipped with the knowledge they need to combat water scarcity, specifically in developing, operating, and managing their own potable water utilities. In short, despite the many challenges, we are consolidating efforts to reach our common goal of allowing each and every Filipino access to safe and clean drinking water.
You have also raised public awareness on water supply, sanitation and environmental issues through activities such as the Water is Life to Me Student Digital Short Film Festival and the Ripples of Hope Postcard Campaign. This is an equally important endeavor on your part since we also need the help of the public as we respond to these concerns.
On behalf of the Filipino people, thank you. Your efforts show how your projects run parallel to the government’s commitment to provide clean and safe drinking water to around 16 million Filipinos. You have given this administration the strength to initiate policy reforms and to build local capacities, encouraging investments and improving water facilities.
But difficult as it may be, this is only the beginning. In order to fast-track the implementation of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) programs and projects, we have created the PPP Center by virtue of Executive Order No. 8. Some of you may not be aware that aside from our airport and highway projects, we also have a number of PPP projects that are geared toward improving our water mechanisms. We have the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project Phase II in Tarlac and the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Stage II in Panay, among others. But again, as this is only the beginning, we hope to come up with more water-related projects that we can put up for bidding.
More than what we have already mentioned, however, we must also focus on the protection and regulation of water for present and future needs. This is why we have supported the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) program. Aside from a technical assistance program to improve water service provision, a study on the IWRM has also been conducted in an effort to alleviate poverty and develop the economy of the Pampanga River Basin. The NRB is also reviewing the Water Code of the Philippines and finalizing its amendments to make it more responsive to the changing needs of Filipinos. All these tasks need to be considered as high priority issues so that we can provide our children the healthy future they deserve.
The NEDA and NWRB are also developing an adjusted tariff setting methodology for small water service providers to ensure adequate tariffs that will lead to cost recovery and improved services. Another critical success factor is the development of a cost recovery system that not only recovers the costs of service provisions, but one that also generates profits. This can take time to develop. It requires a careful mix of tariffs, taxes, and budget transfers together with some form of social tariff to assist the poorest communities.
At the bottom line of all of this is allowing the people access to what is rightfully theirs. That is what our government has committed to do from the beginning, and that is what we will seek to do in the next five years and three months: to rebuild this nation into one where every Filipino can live a dignified life, where no one is left behind. Your government looks forward to empowering responsible people, who will drive the reforms necessary to enhance water services in the country, as well as ensure that targets and plans are met and that critical policies are strictly implemented. Most importantly, we look forward to a future where every Filipino’s necessity—not only water, but healthcare, education, jobs and livelihood opportunities—is provided for. I am grateful to our citizens for being part of the solution, and for giving their support to government programs to bring about this future that we all deserve.
Thank you and good day.