11 million families in Philippines facing water crisis

The figure is almost half of the total number of Filipino families, which stood at 26.39 million in 2020, according to the latest government data.

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda

The Straits Times


A child washing hands with water from a pump well at Taguig City in the Philippines, on March 22, 2023. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

March 24, 2023

MANILA – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Thursday said the Philippines is facing a water crisis, with some 11 million families lacking access to clean water as the dry season approaches.

Speaking during the sixth Water Philippines Conference and Exposition in Manila, he said the country must tap modern water management technologies to address the problem.

He said the country remains heavily reliant on underground aquifers and needs to improve its filtration systems to better manage surface water and give everyone access to potable water.

“And so these are the kinds of stratagems that we have to employ, that we have to bring down to the grassroots level, because of the water crisis in the Philippines. And I call it a water crisis because it is,” he said.

“I was very surprised in the past years, even when I was a senator, even when I was governor, that no one was speaking about water problems. Whereas every single urban community, and even some rural communities in the Philippines, have a water crisis,” he added.

Mr Marcos made the remarks three days after Dr Sevillo David Jr, executive director of the National Water Resources Board, said 11 million Filipino families are still sourcing water from unsanitary deep wells, rivers, lakes and rainwater.

The figure is almost half of the total number of Filipino families, which stood at 26.39 million in 2020, according to the latest government data.

Some cities to the south of the capital Manila and neighbouring Cavite province are also experiencing cuts in their water supply after monsoon winds pushed up sediments from the bottom of Laguna Lake and clogged the filtration system.

The country has long struggled to provide residents with access to clean water due to a number of factors, including rapid population growth and poor governance.

In a 2021 report, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said water supply in the country is unevenly distributed because of rainfall variability, besides the size and features of each island.

Available water supply cannot cope with rapid population and economic growth.

Neda said surface water and groundwater in some areas remain contaminated because of open defecation, and improper management and disposal of human excreta and blackwater. These practices expose communities to waterborne diseases.

The government has been criticised for having inadequate water management practices that fail to stop illegal tapping activities and pipe leaks that contaminate the water supply.

These problems are worsened by extreme climate conditions.

In previous years, parts of the country would experience water service interruptions for weeks due to the El Nino phenomenon, when an extreme rise in temperature with little rainfall affects water levels in the dams from which households source water.

Mr Marcos said the Philippines needs to emulate the best practices of other countries, citing Israel for its “excellent water management” despite being a desert country.

“They are able to collect water during the rainy season. Whatever is available, they put fish in it to grow. When the summer comes, they take it out, take out the water, harvest the fish, and then that goes to irrigation and forth,” he said.

“These are the kinds of thinking that we have to apply to the Philippines.”

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