Press Release
July 3, 2015

Gov't action sought for 7.5 M Filipinos who "do it in the open"
Put 'water meter' in next year's P3-T nat'l budget - Recto

Seven and a half million Filipinos have no toilets while 8.4 million have no access to clean drinking water, a joint report issued Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

Buried in the pages of "Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment" are the findings that 7.1 millions Filipinos resort to "open defecation" while 570,000 use "unimproved sanitation facilities" like buckets and open-pit latrines, a senator said today.

The report also said 2.3 million Filipinos use untreated "surface water" from rivers, dams, canals for drinking, Sen. Ralph Recto said.

In addition, 6.1 million Filipinos source their drinking water from "unimproved drinking water sources" like unprotected dug wells and unprotected springs.

Recto said the report, which tracks access to drinking water and sanitation against the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), should prompt the government to increase investments for clean water and sanitation.

"This should be part of the assumption of the 2016 budget," Recto said. The Aquino administration's sixth and final budget, said to breach P3 trillion, is expected to be submitted to Congress by the end of the month.

In the annex of the WHO-UNICEF report is the scorecard on how countries have progressed in bringing clean water and sanitation to their citizens.

"To our credit, we have made great progress on these two items," Recto said.

"We have brought clean water to 40 million people since 1990 and 41 million Filipinos have also gained access to clean toilets since that year" Recto said.

This prompted WHO and UNICEF to rate the Philippines as having "met target" MDG goals on clean water, Recto said.

But on sanitation facilities, "due perhaps to the number of people resorting to 'open defecation'", the Philippines was graded as having merely made "good progress."

"Mas mataas pa ang family cellphone ownership rate sa bansang ito kesa toilet per household," Recto said.

To wipe out the backlog of homes needing piped water, Recto called "for the opening of the budget taps for clean water and sanitation projects."

Among the on-going projects which should get more funds next year is the construction of toilets and communal drinking faucets in public schools, a component of Basic Educational Facilities program of the Department of Education this year.

The Department of Interior and Local Government is also administering grassroots-identified water projects under the SALINTUBIG program.

"To truly gauge how much we are spending for clean water, I think we should identify in the national budget the amounts for clean water because at present, it is lumped together with flood control," Recto said.

For the current year, P39 billion is said to be spent for water resources development and flood control, Recto said.

"Sa madaling salita, lagyan natin ng metro ng tubig ang ating pambansang budget," Recto said.

Recto said government should "joint venture" with local governments in building public bathrooms and toilets to which the urban homeless can go.

Another initiative worth pursuing is to tap travel tax collections in constructing either free or pay-per-use restrooms along our highways, Recto said.

To lower the cost of sanitary toilets, the Department of Science and Technology can design an affordable, easy-to-produce package.

Recto said clean water projects must be pursued "because water-borne diseases cost Filipinos P2.8 billion annually in treatment costs and lost economic opportunities."

"Handwashing cuts by one-third to one-half the number of diarrhea cases. If we use the number of people diarrhea downed in 2010, which was 269,000, imagine how many cases will be avoided and lives saved if we can bring more clean piped water to homes."

In their joint report, WHO and UNICEF said lack of progress on sanitation threatens to undermine the child survival and health benefits from gains in access to safe drinking water.

The report claimed that worldwide, 1 in 3 people, or 2.4 billion, are still without sanitation facilities - including 946 million people who defecate in the open.

The report describes open defecation "as when human feces are disposed of in fields, forest, bushes, bodies of water or other open spaces."

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