Partnerships vital for PH water security

GOVERNMENT partnerships with financial institutions and infrastructure providers, as well as financing for small and medium enterprises, should be prioritized to create and promote access to safe water and sanitation in the Philippines, experts said.

Despite its growing economy, the Philippines faces significant challenges in terms of water and sanitation access. The country is rapidly urbanizing, and its growing cities struggle to provide new residents with adequate water and sanitation services.

According to the United States Agency for International Development, about 12 million Filipinos do not have access to safe drinking water, and 80 percent of the population is not connected to wastewater treatment services.

During the “Sustainable Path to Water Security for the Philippines” forum on Tuesday, Rich Thorsten, chief insight officer of Water.org, highlighted how his organization has helped increase access to water supply and sanitation services for underserved communities across the world. The Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Management Association of the Philippines, Water.org and Accralaw were behind the event.

Water.org is a nonprofit organization providing aid to developing countries that do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

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“This is a global health crisis… It’s estimated that every day, more than 200 million are wasted mostly by women and girls collecting water or finding places to use them every single day. And it’s… making a valuable crisis. It’s estimated that over $300 billion are lost every single year, largely by people living in poverty, who don’t have access to water and sanitation services solutions,” Thorsten said.

To help address the crisis, he said Water.org identified gaps and opportunities in various dimensions of water and sanitation. “Principally, it is a financing and funding crisis in the way that we look at it. Globally, it’s estimated that roughly $200 billion is needed in investments every year to meet the Sustainable Development Goals,” Thorsten added.

Unfortunately for the Philippines, water adversities will only increase in the face of climate change, which is expected to further exacerbate ecological imbalances as climate variability becomes the new normal. But there will always be a way, according to Thorsten.

By applying a systems approach that strengthens linkages between upstream and downstream stakeholders across all provinces in the Philippines, he said the country will be able to increase access to resilient water supply and sanitation services, improve sustainable management of water resources and strengthen water sector governance.

“[We need to prioritize] downstream partnerships… [we have] partnerships with financial institutions and infrastructure providers… We worked with many financial institutions in the Philippines and around the world to create and promote access to safe water and sanitation through financing through micro loans, through loans to small and medium enterprises… And then on the upstream side, we worked with capital providers,” Thorsten said.

Collaboration for infrastructure

He also said the key to water security is collaboration with the infrastructure sector who work with utilities and small and medium enterprises.

To date, Water.org has mobilized over $4 billion in investment capital around the world, including roughly $250 million in the Philippines toward water and sanitation solutions.

“We’ve reached 50 million people, most of which has been in the last five years, globally, and of that 6 million people are people that live here in the Philippines. So we’re very proud about that. But we also know that there’s much more to do to mobilize billions of foreign investment and reach millions of more people with water and sanitation solutions,” said Thorsten.

Latest climate projections up to 2050 suggest that the Philippines will become warmer, with increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall during the dry season and more extreme rainfall events during the wet season. The intermittent water supply in parts of the country will only continue to bring serious consequences to the health of the affected people who are still reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.