By Analou De Vera
Manila Water assured Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday that there will be enough supply of water in different government hospitals affected by the ongoing water shortage.
“Manila Water has assured me that DOH hospitals will not run out of water and will be making water deliveries as long as necessary. But also, it will depend on availability of adequate number of tankers,” said Duque during a press briefing at Rizal Medical Center (RMC) in Pasig City.
Duque stressed the uninterrupted operation of hospitals is their top priority.
“We cannot compromise the health of our patients. Our hospitals depend on water supply for the hygiene and sanitation of our patients,” said the health chief.
“Lives are at stake and we need everybody’s cooperation,” he added.
Rizal Medical Center (RMC) earlier urged mothers who are about to give birth to bring their own mineral water to clean their newborn babies.
“If we don’t have any adequate supply of water we might have a breach in sterility. That’s why we are quite apprehensive. We somehow fear the possibility of the occurrence of sepsis,” Dr. Relito Saquilayan, the head of RMC, said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
Duque said that aside from RMC, other hospitals in Quezon City such as the Philippine Children’s Medical Center and Quirino Memorial Medical Center are also experiencing “very low water pressure.”
“We are monitoring the situation vis a vis…We need to be proactive and not reactive to be able to better manage the water challenge that is confronting our facilities,” he said.
Duque said that they are coordinating with other agencies and organizations to ensure the water supply in the hospitals.
“We have tapped the Philippine Red Cross and they had responded very quickly… We also have Metropolitan Water and Sewerage System–also contributed to address the water shortage that began Thursday evening. We also have the Bureau of Fire Protection for complementing, augmenting the water requirement of the regional medical centers,” said Duque.
Sen. Richard Gordon, PRC chairman mobilized two 12-liter and four 10-liter water tankers, which can load up to 64,000 liters of water per batch, to fill RMC’s 145,000-liter reservoir.
“The problem was formidable. We solved it by providing a pump that can fill the water tanks, which will supply water in the 450-bed hospital. This should help the patients who are vulnerable due to lack of potable and clean water in the facility,” he said.
Hospitals, according to Gordon, are being prioritized by PRC to ensure that healthcare services will not be interrupted, and to avoid health complications, such as sepsis, a type of blood infection.
Duque said patients are “most sensitive” during water shortage and that water supply is important for the prevention of infection.
“Water is really fundamental in ensuring that hygiene and sanitation are a must in the operations of the hospitals for infection control and infection prevention measures–water is a must. There is no ifs and buts,” he said.
Senate, House probe
Senators support a probe on the water shortage that is affecting parts of Metro Manila and Rizal province.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said he wants to hear from water concessionaires in a probe the Senate will hold to determine the cause of the water shortage.
Re-electionist Senator Nancy Binay pressed for a full inventory and audit of rainwater catch basins.
“Where are the 100,000 barangay rainwater catch basins?” Binay pointed out in a statement.
“El Nino is here and the water crisis is real, imminent and prevalent. Thirty years since Republic Act No. 6716, we want to know how many out of the 42,000 barangays have rainwater collection system (RWCS) na ginawa ng gobyerno,” Binay stressed.
RA 6716 is the law that provides for the construction of water wells, rainwater collectors, development of springs and rehabilitation of existing water wells in all barangays in the Philippines that was enacted in 1989.
Rainwater harvesting is not only for potable water and for agricultural and industrial purposes, it is likewise being advocated by environmentalists to mitigate the effects of climate change, conserve water, help normalize the water cycles and as mitigating measure against floods.
“The program should have been completed back in 1991, but it seems we don’t have that sense of urgency and just let the law sleep for 30 years,” Binay said.
Binay urged the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to make a joint inventory and audit of all RWCSs to check how many of the 42,000 barangays have complied with RA 6716.
Binay said the DPWH, which is the lead agency of a task group on rainwater conservation, is given a yearly budget for the construction of RWCSs and rehabilitation of water supply systems.
In the proposed 2019 national budget, the department has an allocation of P1.27-billion for RWCS projects.
“We wasted 30 years when each barangay should already have the capacity to resolve their problems on flooding and at the same time, water scarcity problems during dry months,” she stressed.
“It’s very concerning. We have to ask a certain number of questions because we get conflicting reports. Is it a problem of service delivery?” Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said in a statement.
But while Manila Water which covers the east zone of Metro Manila and Rizal province is suffering from supply woes, Angara noted its west zone counterpart Maynilad is not.
“One service provider is saying there is a problem, the other says none. That is something, I think, the regulators should investigate,” Angara pointed out.
Reelectionist Senator Grace Poe who chairs the Senate public services panel has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday, March 19 at the Senate session hall at 10 a.m.
“What we are seeing now is not normal and something that our households and farmers do not deserve,” the senator said.
Poe said the committee will invite all concerned government agencies, heads of water concessionaires, regulators and other concerned stakeholders to discuss the crisis and come up with solutions to ease the impact of the supply shortage.
At the Lower House, two House Resolutions (2518 and 2520) have been filed asking the chamber to look into and review the sudden water interruption in the National Capital Region (NCR), Rizal and Cavite, as well as its impact to consumers and implication to quality water service provision. (With reports from Charissa M. Luci-Atienza, Hannah L. Torregoza, and Jel Santos)