Water: Too big a problem | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Water: Too big a problem

/ 05:18 AM March 28, 2019

This is a sequel to what we wrote eight years ago about an impending water crisis all over the world, which can cause a “water war” among nations. In 2011, President Noynoy Aquino designated a “water czar to look into all concerns regarding water.” Now that our prognostication is coming true, people are asking, “Where is that water czar and what has he done?”

Two-thirds of the world today is facing a water crisis. This urgency screams in our face and, yet, the government tells us “not to panic.” Water is the most precious gift of nature but the most ignored and misused. One can last for three weeks without food but cannot, in three to seven days, without water.

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Water, sunshine and air are “free goods” — God’s gift for all. In this country, however, water has become big business for a few smart (and greedy) businessmen, in partnership with the government; people say “don’t be surprised if tomorrow they sell us the sunshine and the air we breathe.” Meanwhile, “don’t panic” even as people elbow each other to collect water from fire trucks, unmindful if it is dirty or fit for drinking. They’re desperate and angry, but who’s panicking?

We have Presidential Decree No. 1067, known as The Water Code of the Philippines, dated Dec. 31, 1976, to implement the constitutional mandate that the government shall “conserve and develop the patrimony.” Patrimony includes waters which are under the ground, above the ground, in the atmosphere and of the sea within the territorial jurisdiction of the country — Sabah included. It is true that there is a need to educate people about water — about its preservation and conservation. But isn’t it quite late and ridiculous to tell people not to flush the toilet every time, not to take a bath daily (never mind if you repulse fellow MRT passengers with your smell), not to gargle twice when brushing the teeth, not to wash clothes too well, not to shower alone, not to drink eight glasses a day (just beer instead), not to do this, not to do that when using water—now that only air comes out of the tap?

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Many countries today are not sparing time, effort and money to mitigate the horrible portent of a waterless world due to fast population growth and global warming. We should act fast to make use of what water assets we have. Pump more funds to clean up our abundant but polluted river system, dredge and resuscitate our fresh water sources — for example the shallow and polluted Laguna de Bay, which can supply water for the whole Manila area and environs (now on the throes of drying up) — and resuscitate abandoned factory and irrigation pumps.

Just as important, make some valid suggestions mandatory, such as commercial buildings building rain catchments for their use, local government units financing the building of minireservoirs in every barangay to collect rainwater or pumped-up water from their aquifer, and the national government funding a massive desalination of sea water from Manila Bay, perhaps with donations from patriotic rich benefactors from the private sector such as Maynilad and Manila Water.

Otherwise, sequester the two money-rich water companies and let the government run them again, and give free water to a hungry and thirsty population before they run amok, which is worse than panicking.

Water is a problem. Listen to the people shouting, “Tuuubiiig!”

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Eddie Ilarde is a former senator, author, freelance writer and lifetime achievement awardee for radio and television. He is founding chair of Maharlika Movement For National Transformation and founding president of Golden Eagles Society for Senior Citizens. He is heard on radio in “Kahapon Lamang” over dzBB 594 Khz 1:30-2:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays. Address: PO Box 107, Makati City 1222.

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TAGS: Eddie Ilarde, Inquirer Commentary, water shortage
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