EditorialWater For The Poor

Water For The Poor

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The World Bank has just released its Philippine Climate & Development Report for 2022 in a multi-sectoral forum last week at Silliman University.

The report highlighted the effects of climate change on the country, where it is projected to have its biggest impact on the poor.

Water resources across the country are expected to dwindle, and seasonal scarcity will be felt with the drier seasons due to climate change, and urban areas could have water stress as populations and activities grow, the World Bank predicted, as it called for increased private sector participation in the water sector.

However, the World Bank has noted that one of the major hindrances to the participation of the private sector in the water sector is political pressure to keep water rates low.

This observation has taken on relevance in view of the situation in Dumaguete, where the City Council is doing what it can to stop Metro Dumaguete Water from passing on the Value Added Tax to consumers, after the water company had been absorbing the cost the past two years.

As early as 2017, the Dumaguete City Water District had observed a looming water crisis where a supply deficit, and the gap between supply and demand continued to grow wider.

The lack of funds to finance the maintenance, upgrading and improvement of the water system has led the government water company to partner with Metro Pacific Water to pump in capital and expertise to do the job.

Surely by now, we may have already experienced some improvements in our water system.

These improvements, however, come at a cost.

While water, per se, is free, it takes money to pump it out of the aquifer, and deliver it to our homes through a vast network of pipes. This is the job that Metro Pacific, which operates the water system for half of Metro Manila and some other places, does best.

The City, which generously commends organizations and individuals for other worthy causes, should even have recognized the improvements in our water supply, now enjoyed 24/7 by 97 percent of the Dumaguete population, as compared to 55 percent two years ago.

It is a given that private companies operate for profit. But then, everyone profits with improved water services. A saying quoted by US President John F. Kennedy says, “A rising tide raises all ships.” An improved economy will benefit all participants.

Prices have gone up for almost everything — fuel, food, electricity, name it. But these price increases, staggering as they may be, have not elicited speeches in defense of the poor.

The poor population, which comprises the majority of the voters in Dumaguete, stand to benefit from the improvements being introduced in the water system. The game changer would be in knowing how to make use of these improvements to better their lives.

Government economic policy can be focused on broad economic efforts, instead of needlessly quibbling over inevitable consequences of the times.

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