WATER PHILIPPINES EXPO & CONFERENCE 2015
Securing, Shaping and Greening Our Water Future Through Innovation
Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.
Some of us today may have skipped breakfast, but I know that there were four things we surely did this morning: Drank water, brushed our teeth, took a bath, and flushed the toilet.
And tonight, we will end the day the way we started it – as water consumers.
A typical Pinoy uses 180 liters of water daily –largely because men here bathe twice, and the women thrice a day.
This comes up to a per capita water consumption of 66 cubic meters annually.
But because the dog and the car get shampooed often too, total water withdrawal per capita in this country is about 846 cubic meters annually.
This number covers what factories and farm need because water, as we all know, is a universal production ingredient.
For example, the cup of coffee we drank this morning, from growing the bean to brewing, went through a process which required 140 liters of water.
If we had rice for breakfast, then a kilo of it required 1,000 liters of water to produce. Palay is a crop with a serious drinking problem.
And for those of you who have no drinking problem but would like to cap your day with a bottle of beer, here’s a sobering thought: It requires 75 liters of water to brew one mug.
Luckily, the Philippines is abundant with water.
Average annual rainfall here is 7 feet 7 inches – lampas tao.
In Australia, it is about 1 foot 9 inches – lampas tuhod.
In Bahrain, it is 3.8 inches – hanggang sakong lang.
In all, the annual renewable water available for every Filipino is about 5 million liters.
Water per se is free, goes a familiar refrain, but the cost of bringing it to the homes of consumers is not.
Water has to be dammed or drilled, filtered and treated, before finally being piped to households. And these, I understand, are what all of you are doing.
But oftentimes we take water – and what you do – for granted. The signs are all over that we should not.
On my home last night – early, I must stress because while the Senate is in recess and I don’t have to register my attendance but my wife checks it at home – there were two things about water that I heard and did which underscore the need to give water our serious attention.
First, I listened to a radio discussion on how even a mild El Niño can trigger a dry spell, cause water rationing, slash irrigation supply, and render hydroelectric plants inoperable.
And when I stopped by a restaurant to buy food –upon orders of the attendance-checker at home, by the way – it was one of those eateries which offers free wi-fi but no free drinking water.
We have come to attach value to clean drinking water.
If you doubt it, here’s Exhibit A: A liter of diesel from oil drilled 8,000 feet below and shipped from refineries 8,000 kilometers away now costs less than a liter of mineral water bottled locally.
But the above pales in comparison with what must be done.
I have told myself to limit my speech to 10 minutes, which by senatorial standards is the speed of light.
By the time I am finished, 33 babies would have been born in this country.
We love babies so much that we produce 4,785 of them a day.
Yearly, we add almost 1.8 million to our population. By 2020, there will be 10 million more of us than we are today. We are adding one Singapore every three years.
So if our population grows by that much yearly, then we have to correspondingly increase our potable water supply by 115 billion liters annually.
And we haven’t included the water needed to grow our food.
Because there is an unli rice-loving gene in our body, then we have to open up 60,000 hectares of new lands for rice production every year, an area two and a half times the size of Camiguin.
Because we need electricity to power our laptops so we can post our selfies in our FBs, then we must see to it that our hydroelectric plants don’t run out of water.
Half of Mindanao’s electricity come from dams, as do one-fifth of Luzon’s. No water in dams, no juice in our iPads.
So this is why activities like this expo is important.
It raises the water quotient of the nation. Not only are machinery and equipment on display here, what is also being sold is the idea to make our country water-ready.
State-of-the-art technology has no use if policies, preparedness and projects on water remain backward.
Fortunately, efforts are underway to achieve water security.
Of course, you are doing your share.
We are also doing ours in the Senate. There might be a dry spell out there, but there is no El Niño of water initiatives in the Upper House.
We may have given the impression that we are fixated by Mamasapano. But what is unreported is the unheralded work we do in crafting laws related to water.
For example, we have boosted the budget for community water supply in the national budget for five years in a row now.
We have also been religiously allocating billions of pesos for the National Greening Program to nurture watersheds indispensable in water delivery.
Last week, we passed on second reading, without fanfare but with much resolve, the bill reiterating the tax-exempt status, and condoning the tax liabilities of local water districts.
We promised local water districts that we will pass it. On this pledge, the Senate is time-on-target.
The approval of the bill is in recognition of the important work of 514 local water districts in providing 20 million Filipinos clean water round-the-clock.
It is an excellent piece of legislation because taxes foregone will be returned to consumers, by making services better, broader and bigger.
It will be used to finance improvements, like new wells and fresh sources, new pipes and modern meters to end leaks, and even computers to plug leakages of the monetary kind.
Hindi naman ganun kalaki ang ipapatawad na utang. The 78 LWDs had a combined liability of P842 million. And the total receivables from all LWDs is P1.005 billion.
The reason I am citing these is to compare it with other obligations incurred by other industries which the government, in an act of grace, and condoned in the past.
We have written off debts and crossed out arrears in the books of government corporations in amounts far greater than what LWDs are asking.
Three years ago, P30 billion, in three tranches, was plowed to the Central Bank as added capitalization without congressional leaders receiving a text that the transfer has been made.
In the power sector, we have written off hundreds of billions of their debts.
In numerous pieces of legislation, banks, which are hardly examples of penury, have been given reprieves, the SPAV, to cite one.
In contrast, what LWDs are asking is a drop in the bucket of what has been given to private companies.
And the best thing is that taxes saved will not be kept for profits but will be used to improve service.
For that is essentially the prayer of LWDs: Forgive us our debts and we will deliver more water.
We hope that this and the other things we are doing in the Senate help meet the challenge of providing clean water for more people in the years to come.
In addition to this future demand which must be met, there is a backlog to be wiped out.
Nakarating na ang rover sa Mars, but the irony is that 16 percent of homes dito sa Pilipinas have no access to clean water.
At a time when we have catapulted a probe 15 billion miles from the Sun, the equivalent of a galactic homerun, 12 percent of the population have no flush toilets here.
This is unfortunate because there is no right as basic as access to clean water.
While technology has cloned many things and invented substitutes for many commodities, it has yet to create synthetic water.
It is for this lack of any alternative to water that its denial to a person exacts a heavy toll on his quality of life.
Regular hand-washing alone cuts by one-third to one-half the number of severe diarrhea cases of which about half a million are reported yearly.
Water-borne diseases cost Filipinos P2.8 billion annually in treatment costs and lost economic opportunities.
So please let us have more meetings like this, more expositions like this, and more advocates for clean water like us to pressure our government that when it comes to the basic human right of access to clean water, it cannot wash its hands of this responsibility.
There is a Chinese saying which says – We only know the worth of water when the well is dry.
Let us make sure that it won’t.
Maraming salamat po.