‘Waterless’ areas a major problem–NEDA

Published by rudy Date posted on April 21, 2009

INACTION on the part of legislators is one of the reasons some parts of the Philippines outside Metro Manila remain waterless, NEDA officials said Monday.

According to Ralph Recto, director general of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), 242 out of 432 local governments are yet to be covered by the President’s Priority Program on Water that will support policy reform and initiatives for sustainable and clean water supply.

This translates to at least 120,000 households outside Metro Manila remaining ‘waterless.’ Waterless is defined as area with less than 50 percent water supply coverage.

Engineer Ruben Reinoso Jr. of NEDA said the country’s remote areas are enduring inadequate water supply because of the low performance of the water utilities due to low tariff and cost-recovery level.

Reinoso said the problem has persisted because the solution does not have executive and legislative champions.

But the situation is expected to ease for the 122,000 households in the 36 of the ‘waterless’ municipalities in Cagayan, Bicol, Zamboanga, Northern Mindanao and Caraga.

The municipalities are the beneficiaries of a joint program of the United Nations Development Program and Spain that has earmarked $5.34 million to help the Philippines achieve Millennium Development Goal No. 7, which is to reduce by 50 percent the population without access to safe, adequate and sustainable water supply and sanitation before 2015.

The fund is part of three-year P258.3-million worth of grants the governments of Spain and the United Nations have set aside for the Millennium Development Goals-Fund (MDG-F) 1919: “Enhancing Access to and Provision of Water Services with the Active Participation of the Poor.”

“We are on track of meeting the goal, but this funding will make us achieve it faster,” Recto said.

Foreign aid amid crisis

Meanwhile, Koos Richelle, European Commission director general of the European Commission’s EuropeAid Cooperation Office, said that achieving sustainable development does not lie on foreign aid alone, but more on the results of quality leadership and governance within individual countries.

 “Results at the level of beneficiaries are what counts, not just the schools built, but the children in school, and the quality of education,” Richelle said at the opening of the Asia-Europe Meeting Conference— Towards Sustainable Development held at the Mandarin Oriental in Makati City.

Richelle cited that donors are willing to put money on the table, and that the European Union remains committed to provide aid equal to .7 percent of its gross national income by 2015.

“But more money means that parliaments, and taxpayers in general, have become more and more interested in seeing tangible results,” he added. “That is why the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals is such an important part of our cooperation.

The United Nations has set a 2015 deadline for countries to achieve their MDGs, which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and forming global partnership for development.

 “Each country should be responsible for its own development,” according to Richelle, “and donors giving aid should aim to use country systems through sector approaches and budget support.”

Recto concurred, saying “aid should use program-based approaches through the local institutions . . . to spur productivity.”

However, he called for sustained and renewed Official Development Assistance from donor countries not despite but because of the crisis.

“We need to reassure that developed countries will also deliver in these extraordinary times, for the fate of the global economy does not only rest on the developed countries, but also on small and vibrant economies of the developing countries such as the Philippines,” Recto pointed out.

Delegates from 43 countries across Asia and Europe will meet at a high-level conference in Manila on April 20 to 21 for a concentrated series of dialogues in the global search to balance economic demands with sustainable development. –Llanesca T. Panti, Reporter and Sarah Jane P. Pauyo, Manila Times

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