By FRANCIS N. TOLENTINO
Water sustains life. Our bodies are approximately 50 to 75% water. Similar to the nourishment that food provides for the body, water is essential in keeping our bodies healthy and strong. That is why the importance of clean, safe, and sustainable water has repeatedly been emphasized here in the country and elsewhere in the world. With the rapidly growing Filipino population, the larger question is: Can our water supply keep pace with the demands of population growth?
Critical to development is the utilization of water. Agriculture remains at the top of the list of water use in the Philippines, using about 88% of surface water for farming. Water is essential to agriculture for the obvious reason that plants need it for survival and growth. Industries also rely on water in its maintenance and operations. Growth in industries, like growth in population, consequently increases the demand for water in highly urbanized areas.
While data from UNICEF reveals that 91% of the Philippine population has access to basic water services, the challenges posed by industrialization and population growth to our current water resources and their sustainability remains clear and present. Added to this is the gradual destruction of some bodies of water due to pollution and reclamation activities. Shortage in water supply not only threatens development but also human health and the environment.
As we proceed along the lines of progress, it is important for the laws we craft or amend to ensure that balance is kept between water sustainability and development. Pre-emptive measures should be in place not only to ensure safe and clean water, but also the renewability of sources from which this gift is drawn. The Philippines may well learn from Vietnam, Thailand and China which have established a separate Department of Water Resources Management tasked among others to ensure efficient management of water supply and water resources. While we already have a firmly established Department of Environment and Natural Resources, a separate office that will only focus on water management in the country will not only complement the work already done by DENR but will also allow the department to concentrate efforts on the other aspects of environmental management.