All posts by Jeneferlyn Yap

Water Wars in the Philippines

One of the most controversial issue our world faces today is the problem of utilization of water resources. It is an evident fact that water is one of the resources vital to human existence and has resulted to water wars. Countries along the Nile River particularly Egypt fight for control over the Nile River where 90 million of its people live . Further, water is susceptible to degradation and depletion.

Although almost two-thirds of the world’s surface is made up of water, only a small portion of this constitutes sources of potable water. At the onset of rapid urbanization and development, the proper management and distribution of water for varied uses becomes an immediate center of attention. This concern has caused different entities and groups to examine the present condition and to prescribe ways for management of some of the biggest water systems in the Philippines.

Small-scale water wars

People derive different uses from water sources. These uses include water for domestic use, irrigation, hydroelectric power generation and flood control systems.

Communities in the Philippines obtained their water supply from different sources such as rainfall, surface water resources, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and underground resources (Greenpeace, 2007). Some of the major water basins and water systems in the country include the Angat Reservoir, Laguna Lake, and Batangas City groundwater system.

However, events in the past and our condition provides a different image of water resource use in the country. Various governmental agencies currently share the magnitude of the work involved in gathering information and monitoring the water supply services in the country. These organizations include the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA, formerly NSO) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), (NEDA, 2010).

An article written by Guillermo Tabios and Cristina David in 2002 specified the different issues and conflicts involved in the sustainable use of water resource in the some of the Philippines’ important water systems. In the 1970s, the country experienced the need to meet the increasing water demands of the consumers. The situation led to serious problems for planners and decision makers.

Provisions of the Republic Act 9275, otherwise known as the “Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004”, specified that trade-offs in water use may be imposed. However, the said provision is not efficiently carried in the entire country. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is the lead agency that implements RA 9275. Previous reports and cases supporting the claim of weak implementation by the government were also evident (as stated in the case between Bulacan Farmers and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. Due to conflict of interests, changing the political landscape and weak justice system, resolution of cases that involves water use trade-offs are still being decided (as stated in the case between Bulacan farmers and MWSS).

water wars
A 21st-century water-use conflict among the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida in the US.

Another aspect that needs to be considered in this issue of water use is the physical system and operation of water systems. Planners and decision makers must be well-equipped with the required knowledge to relate the functions of the respective water systems relevant to its effects on the nearby ecosystems, surrounding communities, and different stakeholders. This point was significantly noted in the instance of the construction of Mangahan Floodway in Metro Manila. The Floodway was constructed to safeguard Metro Manila from floods. The floodway, however, caused flooding in the surrounding communities in the Taguig and Taytay area. This event goes to show that careful planning, especially those involving the construction of structures, should be carefully planned since these might also affect other neighboring areas.

Saltwater intrusion is also one issue that needs to be addressed. We all know that potable water for domestic use needs to be free of substances that might increase its salinity. Due to excessive pumping, groundwater aquifers and systems become prone to saltwater intrusion. This situation results when freshwater pressure can no longer repel that of saltwater, leading to intrusion. This occurrence increases the salinity level of water beyond the treatable condition. When this happens, costly processes must be carried out to treat water for domestic use. Nevertheless, not all government agencies and private companies in the country can afford to employ such process.

Another issue is the worsening effect of pollution on our water supply. Much of our water resources are being exposed to chemical and toxic substances that may lead to worse environmental and health problems. Water pollution due to poor sanitation and untreated wastewater contributes significantly to the degrading quality of our existing water supply. Results showed that polluted water may cause several health problems such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (PEM, 2003).

Possible recommendations to prevent water wars

Ultimately, a greater portion of responsibility lies with the agencies of the government that manage the utilization of water resources. To prevent water wars, responsible government agencies should work together. Though each organization has different stakeholders that they need to cater, it is still best that they harmonize their respective schemes and equitably share our existing water resources.

Efficient monitoring of water quality and supply should also be carried out regularly. The conduct of researches and studies is highly recommended. With the results of these studies, the government, including the planners and decision makers, will be provided with the proper basis that may be used to review our existing laws about water resources use.

All of us should realize that water is a finite and scarce resource. Such can only be attained if we work hand-in-hand to preserve these resources and prevent water wars.

References:

(1) David, C and Tabios, G. (2002). Competing Uses of Water: The Cases of Angat Reservoir, Laguna Lake and Groundwater systems of Batangas City and Cebu City. Philippine Institute for Development Studies. 20, (6).

(2) Philippines, National Economic and Development Authority. (2010). Philippine Water Supply Sector Roadmap, 2nd Edition. Pasig City, Philippines.

(3) Greenpeace-Southeast Asia. (2007). State of Water in the Philippines. Quezon City, Philippines.

Cite this article as: Jeneferlyn Yap (November 8, 2016). Water Wars in the Philippines. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2016/11/08/water-wars/

Forest Management: The Evolution of the Government’s Role

There is much to say when it comes to the issue of forest management, i.e., its protection and conservation, in the Philippines. So much had changed since the year when Presidential Decree 705 or the “Forestry Reform Code” was enacted.

The role of the government from then, and until now was seen to be less centralized and more participatory when it comes to forest management. But whether or not these efforts and initiatives are instrumental to sustainable forest management is still arguable. As the community and the public to that extent becomes more involved, and as we continue to change the social and political landscape of this nation, it becomes imperative that we continue to appraise and evaluate our situation as often as possible.

The Reality of Forest Management in the Philippines

In 2001, Ben Malayang III noted in his article “The Changing Role of Government in Forest Protection”, that only one percent (1%) of the causes of forest losses come from illegal logging. Though the author clearly emphasized the discrepancies to the data, there is still much to discuss.

The data we have here in Palawan could be used to claim wholesomely that illegal logging, especially those of premium wood species, constitute a significant percentage of events that contribute to diminishing forest resources. The cases of illegal logging in the province do encompass not only those operating on the large scale but also those small-scale illegal loggers. This practice was evident with the apprehension of thousands of board feet of Narra, Ipil and Kamagong in a resort in Culion, Palawan last 2015.

forest management
Illegal logging threatens the sustainability of ecological services.

Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force

To solve the issue on continued illegal logging in the province, a multi-partite Anti-illegal Logging Task Force was created. Different government agencies compose the task force, including the Provincial Government of Palawan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

Once illegal loggers are apprehended, the enforcers from the different enforcement agencies face another problem when it comes to filing of cases and prosecution in court. Most of the time, apprehensions lack substantial evidence and legal instrument. This shortcoming results in a weak prosecution of cases that often leads to dismissal.

Furthermore, several other causes aggravate illegal logging such as kaingin (swidden agriculture) and land use conversion. It goes to show that there are still much to do when it comes to enforcement of forest-related laws and ordinances.

The Local Government Code as a Tool for Forest Management

The ratification of the Local Government Code (LGC) in 1991 augmented the changing role of the government and the community towards forest management. Selected provisions of LGC mandated the central government to devolve some of its powers to the local government units.

The law would have been beneficial to the larger population. However, such powers and authority were not appropriately complemented with corresponding funds and machinery – causing the LGUs and the local leaders to fall short in monitoring and implementation. This weakness led to the involvement of private groups.

The extent of responsibility and the volume of work of the government are not well-complemented by its existing resources. Thus, the government has to find ways to reinforce limitations by involving private groups to partake not only in the decision-making process but also in the implementation and operational phases of certain projects.

Nevertheless, as more players and entities become more involved, the more complex the political spectrum becomes. It becomes harder to impose the provisions of relevant laws since more interests are being brought into the process.

The Role of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) in Forest Management

Another issue is the lack of legal bases as to the regulation of the use of forest lands and resources among the indigenous groups. At present, we have the IPRA Law which safeguards the interests of the indigenous people in place of national laws. We need to respect the laws of the land without necessarily displacing and robbing our fellow indigenous communities of their rights. It is only necessary that we harmonize these laws with one another.

In the end, it is also our responsibility to offer our services towards achieving common grounds in managing our forest resources. Sustainable development cannot be achieved alone. People participation, effort, and cooperation are needed for us to build a better nation.