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Water and Its Critical Role for National Development

12 November 2010

Speech-Environmental-Planner41st Anniversary of Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP)
November 12, 2010 at Sulo Reviera, Quezon City

My warm congratulations to the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP) on its 41st anniversary! It is a happy occasion for me to be your guest at this, your national convention. Because of Presidential Decree 1308, environmental (urban and regional) planning has become a licensed profession as recognition of its importance to the nation.

The theme of your convention this year is WATER AND ITS CRITICAL ROLE FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, a very appropriate subject matter considering that this precious natural resource has been both a “savior” and a “curse” in our national development.

In the HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT, 2008 of the United Nations, the Philippines was in the 90th spot (out of 177 countries) in the accomplishment of the MDG goal to improve WATER, SANITATION and NUTRITION, classifying it in the category of MEDIUM DEVELOPMENT. In 2005 the Philippines had 85% of the population having access to improved water resource (down from 87% in 1990) and 72% of the population enjoying improved sanitation (up from 57% in 1990). In terms of nutrition, 28% of the population was undernourished (up from 18% in 1990). Peace and Equity Foundation, in its latest Provincial Poverty Indicators of 2005, estimates that 1.9 Million households will still need access to water by 2015.

Water was one of the eleven basic human needs prioritized by the former Ministry of Human Settlements, which was included by the National Government in its national development plan. It recognized the value and importance of managing water resources in various parts of the nation. Water is a daily necessity for drinking, cooking, washing, cleaning, as well as for the growth of plant life, animal life, and other grown and cultivated foods for our nourishment. It is also needed in large continuous supplies to fill up the country’s dams that generate hydroelectricity for household and industries, as well as for irrigation of commercial agricultural crops.
We all remember all too well the recent droughts, resulting from El Ni?o earlier this year, that caused water shortages in many homes and destroyed commercial crops, usually fed by regular supplies of irrigated water. Plus, there were intermittent power blackouts caused by dwindling electricity from the non-continuous operations of very expensively-built hydroelectric dams which lacked water.

And, prior to the long droughts we had the continuous flood-causing rains that destroyed so many communities and businesses in the flooded areas, notably Ondoy and Pepeng of 2009.

Our national problem about water ranges from not having enough when we need it and having too much when we have exceeded our capacity.

Water, therefore, is a very valuable natural resource that must be planned for, managed, and prudently used and consumed. It is no wonder that planners have now begun to purposefully included water in their formerly exclusive “land use plans” for development. Water should be always considered and planned for, for the following basic reasons:
• Flood mitigation, control and prevention;
• Ensuring steady supplies of potable water for households and industrial water for businesses and industries;
• Maintaining continuing adequate supplies for irrigation of agricultural crops;
• Managing water levels of lakes and rivers for biodiversity and ecological balance.

Water, as a precious resource, has become in many places a contentious item in areas and regions where it is so scarce – for example, in the Middle East and Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa. The Arabs and the Jews in Palestine and Israel have long fought against each other for control of water in that dry region.

It is therefore logical that development planning for human settlements in the Philippines should always include provisions for adequate water supplies and effective environmental management to preserve our watersheds from destruction, as well as to safeguard our waterways and water systems from clogging. Obviously, water is a very important and critical resource element in development planning. Water ensures our green environment and sustainable economic bases. We cannot but constantly think about of our WATER SECURITY.

I thank you for your invitation today by your professional association to share ideas about water as a critical development resource and element. I hope that the together with the PIEP we hold continuing dialogues as we seek better legislated policies to improve our urban and regional development planning and governance. We must have a healthy discussion about the National Land Use Code and other pressing policies that affect environmental land and water use planning of human settlements. Your ideas and insights will always be welcome at our Senate offices for such important discussions.

Congratulations once again to PIEP on this occasion and I look forward to a continuing relationship with professional EnP’s in our basic advocacy for a better quality of life in Philippine cities, towns and communities.

Thank you and Good Morning.