18th World Water Day: Uphold right to water, Philippine Pres. Aquino told
MANILA, Philippines - Disappointed with the muddled position of the current administration in recognizing one of the most basic human rights, around 200 members of the Freedom from Debt Coalition took to the streets Tuesday urging President Benigno S. Aquino III to step up and uphold the human right to water.
In a creative action coinciding with the 18th World Water Day, the right to water advocates urged President Aquino to unequivocally declare the Philippine state's recognition of this right and to take the lead in ensuring that every step it takes towards water preservation and water supply provision is built around the human right to water and the principles of environmental sustainability.
FDC expressed deep concern over the position taken by the Philippine state in a United Nations General Assembly Resolution passed in July last year.
According to Dianne Roa-Oarde, FDC's advocacy coordinator, the Philippine government failed to support the monumental UN resolution which explicitly recognized the human right to water as a "human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights." The Philippine government abstained from supporting the said resolution, though it is a signatory of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other international instruments upholding the right to water.
According to FDC, the mixed signals may threaten to undermine existing initiatives towards the promotion and protection of the human right to water, including the Philippines' commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.
"We are thus urging President Aquino to take on a clear position on this matter and do what his UN representative failed to do. He must unequivocally declare his administration's recognition of the right to water" Roa-Oarde stressed.
Real challenge of water provision
In a joint statement issued to the press, FDC and other allied organizations pressed for the recognition of the human right to water as a fundamental consideration that must stand at the heart and center of any framework or road map that seeks to guide the protection, conservation and use of our water resources. The struggle to enshrine the human right to water in all state policies concerning the protection, conservation and use of water resources is said to constitute the real challenge for both urban and rural communities.
"In the face of the challenges that beset our freshwater resources, the availability, accessibility, and quality of drinking water must be ensured for every person. Safe drinking water must be ensured as a matter of right for both present and future generations, and this can only be achieved through the sustainable and equitable use of our water resources," FDC said
"In our country alone, 50 of our 421 rivers have already been declared biologically dead. There is a pressing need to conserve and protect our freshwater resources, and that need is further multiplied by the impacts of climate change," the group added.
"We believe that, as the urgency to protect our watersheds and freshwater resources continues to intensify, so does the need for us to rationalize our use of these resources. There are more uses for freshwater resources that are now competing against one another. These different uses must be scrutinized and weighed against each other when we try to determine the steps that we must take to spare our freshwater resources from the over-consumption that drove us to the global climate crisis we are now facing. Most importantly, now is a more urgent time than before to ensure that competition for our water resources does not translate into the deprivation of any man, woman or child of the water that they require for an adequate standard of living," the group explained.
State of water supply provision
The group also expressed its alarm with the state of water supply provision in the country, citing the dwindling number of Filipinos with access to improved water sources.
"From 1990 to 2006, the percentage of Filipinos with access to improved water sources decreased from 87 percent to 81 percent. A total of 432 communities have been listed as waterless, with less than 50 percent of the households having access to safe potable water supply. Incidences of arbitrary disconnections, refused connections, and forced payment for unexplained exponential increases in water consumption continue to persist in the absence of any available recourse for water users seeking protection and enforcement of their right to water," FDC said.
Last Friday, FDC and water consumer group PATTAK urged the Commission on Human Rights to undertake steps that will further and deepen the state's recognition of the human right to water. They also asked the agency to get involved in a case that was filed in the Supreme Court (GR 192088) against the privatization of the Angat hydroelectric power plant. CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales has vowed to intervene in the said case.
In 1992, the United Nations set aside March 22 as an annual day of celebration and activism to advance the conservation of the globe's water resources. This is in conformity with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development contained in chapter 18 (Fresh Water Resources) of Agenda 21. For 2011, the theme is "Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge."
Labor party joins other groups in pushing for right to water
The labor party Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) links up with other groups under the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) pushing for the recognition and enforcement of the right to water.
A rally led by FDC was held this morning at the Mabuhay Rotonda on the occasion of the 18th World Water Day, urging President Aquino to unequivocally declare the government's recognition of this right and to take the lead in ensuring that water preservation and water supply provision is built around the human right to water and the principles of environmental sustainability.
PM Secretary General Judy Ann Miranda said that because water is a finite
natural resource, global capitalism was able to alter its social function from being a 'common good' into a private commodity being traded into the market.
"Gone were the times when 'free water' is enjoyed by communities. Now it is a private commodity traded similar to how a cola is priced in the market," explained Miranda.
The labor group said the privatization of the water industry in many parts of the world, including the Philippines, transformed this social good into a cash-rich business that delivers high returns to private corporations while becoming more inaccessible to the poor.
In 1992, the United Nations declared March 22 as the World Water Day in recognition of the importance of securing global water resource. Water right is a human right that cannot be denied to anybody, including the next generations.
Miranda added that chronic poverty made many poor communities virtually "waterless" as private water utilities would only lay their pipes to economically viable areas leaving the unconnected households at the mercy of aguadors who supply them with more costly and unsafe water.
According to FDC, between 1990 to 2006, the percentage of Filipinos with access to improved water sources decreased from 87% to 81%. A total of 432 communities have been listed as waterless, with less than 50% of the households having access to safe potable water supply.
Moreover, watersheds are recklessly being destroyed by corporate activities such as metallic and fossil fuel mining and other industrial activities which largely contribute also to climate change.
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