THE Philippines suffers from having one of the poorest sewerage access in Asia, according to the latest study of the World Bank.
According to Ben Eijbergen, infrastructure sector coordinator of the World Bank in Manila, only four percent of the population in the city had access to sewerage in 2000 — the third lowest among 18 cities in Asia — while it is almost non-existent in places outside Metro Manila.
Only the cities of Jakarta in Indonesia and Vientiane in Laos had less than four percent of its population with access to sewerage, said Eijbergen, who made his presentation on “The Forgotten Sector: Sanitation and Sewerage in the Philippines” at a World Bank forum held this week.”Indiscriminate disposal of wastewater is one main reason for degradation of water quality,” added Eijbergen. His presentation formed part of the 2005 World Bank study, “Philippines: Meeting Infrastructure Challenges.”
The World Bank’s 2004 Philippines Environment Monitor had the same findings. According to the report, water pollution mainly came from domestic and industrial sources. It stated that more than 2.2 million MT of organic pollution are produced annually by the following sectors: domestic (48 percent); agricultural (37 percent); and industrial (15 percent). These pollution estimates, it added, did not include pollution from solid waste discharge and leachate.
The World Bank said the annual economic losses caused by water pollution are estimated at P67 billion or $1.3 billion.
From 1996 to 2000, approximately 31 percent of illnesses monitored were attributed to waterborne diseases. This, it said, is costing the country P3.3 billion per year in avoidable health costs.
Fish yields have declined by 30 to 50 percent due to sedimentation and silt pollution, resulting in a loss of P17 billion due to the degradation of the fisheries environment.
Water pollution has also cost the country a total of P47 billion for avoidable losses in tourism. An example of which is the coliform crisis in Boracay in 1997, where high levels of coliform were detected in the island’s waters. This resulted in the sharp decline of tourism arrivals in Boracay at that time.
The World Bank also reported that contaminated drinking water is one of the most prevalent causes of illness in the country. Among the known diseases caused by polluted water are gastroenteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis.
In 2004, the Asian Development Bank also reported that only 25 percent of the poor have access to full waterworks systems that have individual household connections. It said that 13 percent of poor households access piped systems with community faucets, while 31 percent are provided water from springs or protected wells.
The poor, in fact, spend a greater portion of their income per month on water than rich households do. They mainly rely on vended water as their main source, devoting nine percent of their household expenditure to buying water.
Eijbergen said the national government and local government units have not been prioritizing the issue of sanitation and sewerage. Moreover, the government has not been investing for the proper maintenance of these systems.
He explained that “only three percent of the country’s annual investment in water supply goes into sanitation and sewerage.” The country would need a total of P256.37 billion to put in place better sanitation systems by 2015.
Under the Clean Water Act of 2004, a water quality fund will be created to partly meet the requirements of keeping our waters pollution-free. It also established a National Sewerage and Septage Management Program that will allot funds for construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure for wastewater management.
See Eijbergen’s presentation here.