Addressing the Water Supply Crisis for Millions of Filipinos

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Addressing the Water Supply Crisis in the Philippines

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has recently taken action to address the pressing issue of water supply in the Philippines. With approximately 40 million Filipinos lacking access to clean and safe water, the President has directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to tackle this “unacceptable” situation. In a sectoral meeting with the DENR and other relevant agencies, President Marcos emphasized the need for effective water resources management.

The Extent of the Problem

During a palace briefing, DENR Undersecretary Carlos Primo David shed light on the severity of the issue. He explained that the underserved population primarily resides in island communities and Mindanao, particularly in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Out of the more than 7,000 Philippine islands, a staggering 5,500 lack a formal water supply. These small islands, averaging around 1 square kilometer in size, are home to fisherfolk communities that rely on springs, creeks, and even rainwater for their daily water needs.

Focusing on the Underserved Population

Undersecretary David emphasized the President’s directive to prioritize the 40 million underserved Filipinos. While there are ongoing projects for large cities such as Bacolod, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Tarlac City, the government recognizes the urgent need to address the water supply crisis in these marginalized communities. The DENR is committed to developing strategies to tackle this problem effectively.

One potential solution being considered is the issuance of bonds and seeking assistance from development partners. By exploring these avenues, the government aims to secure the necessary resources to solve the water supply issue. Additionally, the President has stressed the importance of the National Irrigation Administration in constructing multipurpose dams that can serve multiple purposes such as flood control, irrigation, water supply for households, and power generation.

The Root Cause: Lack of Regulation

Senator Grace Poe, who leads the Senate Committee on Public Resources, has identified the lack of regulation and effective management of water resources as the root cause of the water crisis. Despite the abundance of water sources in the Philippines, the problem lies in the inefficient utilization and management of these resources. Senator Poe believes that establishing a Department of Water Resources would be a crucial step in addressing this issue sustainably.

Decades of research conducted by the National Economic and Development Authority, the United Nations, and the Asian Development Bank have consistently highlighted the need for a lead agency to harmonize policies and provide clear direction for the water sector. With 421 river basins, 59 natural lakes, 100,000 hectares of freshwater swamps, 50,000 square kilometers of groundwater reservoirs, and an average rainfall of 2,400 millimeters throughout the year, the Philippines possesses the potential to ensure water security for all its citizens.

However, despite these abundant resources, the DENR and the National Water Resources Board report that more than 40 million Filipinos still lack access to potable water and sanitation services. Furthermore, 11 million families are forced to rely on unsafe water sources. This has resulted in water shortages and the declaration of a state of calamity in 131 cities and municipalities, from Ilocos Norte to Cotabato.

Senator Poe expressed her concern over the fact that a country surrounded by water, like the Philippines, still has areas without access to water. She emphasized that the issue lies in the system and highlighted the challenges of coordination among the numerous departments and line agencies responsible for water-related functions. The lack of effective coordination has hindered vital programs and data collection efforts, exacerbating the water supply crisis.


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s directive to address the water supply crisis in the Philippines signifies a crucial step towards ensuring a better future for the 40 million underserved Filipinos. By focusing on marginalized communities and exploring potential solutions such as bond issuance and seeking assistance from development partners, the government aims to provide access to clean and safe water for all its citizens. Additionally, the establishment of a Department of Water Resources, as advocated by Senator Grace Poe, would play a pivotal role in effectively managing and regulating the country’s water resources. With the right coordination and sustainable policies in place, the Philippines can overcome its water supply challenges and ensure water security for all its people.

Source: The Manila Times

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