By Cai Ordinario, March 31 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) will push for the signing of an executive order (EO) that aims to strengthen the National Water Resources Board (NWRB).

The EO aims to transform the NWRB into the National Water Management Council (NWMC) to pave the way for the creation of an apex body for water to be called the Department of Water (DOW).

The NWMC will act as the interim body to pave the way for the Department of Water or Department of Water Resources, which is well within the powers of the President. The President has the authority to restructure the entire Executive branch.

“We hope to get the approval soon. In the next Cabinet meeting, that recommendation will be raised,” Neda Undersecretary for Regional Development Adoracion M. Navarro said.

The Neda consultant tasked to draft the EO and the DOW, Elisea Gozon, earlier said these developments could not have been more needed as the country’s water resources are already under stress.

Based on the results from the 2017 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey and Water Quality Testing Module, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said 94 percent of the country’s 24 million households have improved source of drinking water.

However, only a third has access to E. coli-free water supply. E. coli, the PSA said, is a fecal indicator bacteria and is likely to be present when feces or raw sewage has entered the water supply.

PSA said that while most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make a person sick. Further, some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.

“The presence of E. coli in drinking water does not necessarily mean that the person drinking it will become sick, but it indicates that, over time, the household is at a higher risk for waterborne diseases,” the PSA said.

Data showed that only 1 in every 3 families, or 34 percent, have their drinking water at the point of use free from fecal contamination. In this module, free from fecal contamination refers to drinking water that has zero E.coli.

The PSA said households located in urban areas are more likely to have drinking water that is free from contamination of E.coli compared with those in rural areas.

“The percentage of families with drinking water with no contamination of E. coli is higher in the point source [50 percent] than from point use [34 percent]. This may indicate that handling and storage may affect the quality of water,” the PSA added.

Overall, the PSA data showed, around 94 percent of the 24 million Filipino families have improved source of drinking water.

In urban areas, 97 percent of households have access to improved sources of drinking water, while it is a bit lower at 91 percent in rural areas.

Residents in rural areas are more likely to have an unimproved source of drinking water than those in urban areas. Almost 4 in every 5 families, or 77 percent, do not practice any method or treatment in ensuring that their drinking water is safe to drink.

On the sufficiency and accessibility of drinking water, the majority or 88 percent of the families reported that drinking water is sufficient while 4 percent of families are unable to obtain sufficient water because it is not available from source.

Three in every 4 families, or 75 percent, obtain their drinking water within the premises or within their yard/plot. It is more likely that families in urban areas have their water sources within their premises compared with families in rural areas.

The World Health Organization and Unicef Joint Monitoring Report (2017) defined improved drinking water sources as having the potential to deliver safe water by nature of their design and construction such as piped water tubewells or boreholes; protected dug wells, protected springs; and rainwater.

Families that use bottled water or refilling stations for drinking are classified as using an improved source only if the water they use for cooking and handwashing comes from an improved source.