Long-term planning
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - March 26, 2019 - 12:00am

If there is something I notice quite often when it comes to Filipinos (and the Philippines in general) it is that we are not forward planners. The country – and our government – is far more reactionary in the way we address our issues and it’s very rare that we plan so well for a problem in advance that by the time it arises we are prepped and ready. I’m not saying this is a trait limited to Filipinos, but it’s become so glaringly obvious here that it’s really time for us to make a change.

Granted there is something to be said about learning from experience. Some things you can’t truly plan ahead for and you won’t really understand how to handle something unless you have been through it. But I like to think that there are certain things we know are somewhat inevitable in the country (based on history) and we should already have plans in place for such things by now.

I’m grateful that, at the very least, we are now far more careful when it comes to disaster planning since Yolanda and Ondoy. I wish it didn’t take a catastrophe of such proportions to make our government realize that we needed better disaster preparedness plans in place. But for whatever it’s worth, we seem to have learned from it and put more effort in planning ahead for floods, typhoons, and even earthquakes. Here’s hoping we never get “the big one” – but even if we never do we should always make sure we are prepared and continuing building on preparations just in case.

I ended up thinking about the country’s ability to plan ahead due to the water crisis we are currently experiencing. While some people in certain areas have been lucky enough to be spared, so many others are experiencing the extreme problem of having no water. As usual, many Filipinos faced the shortage with laughter born of resilience, but they really shouldn’t have to be creating memes counting the number of days without a bath, before the government is spurned into action.

As usual, things have been left to the last minute and it takes another viral crisis before anything is actually done. And water supply is not a new problem. This is something that has plagued the country – and Metro Manila in particular – for years. The idea of Filipinos not having access to water and having to wake up at the crack of dawn to buy potable water is not a new concept. We can’t say we were blindsided. This is something that should have been addressed and resolved years ago.

In the South, water has always been a big issue. Many homes have tanks for water because it wasn’t readily accessible for so many years. I don’t think it should have taken a water crisis to make our government realize that changes need to be made. Moving forward, addressing this water shortage should result in a sustainable plan with the focus of making clean potable water available in every Filipino household and not just in the households of the affluent.

And hopefully this time the plan is implemented properly and maintained. We have all known that getting all our water supply (upwards of 95 percent at least) solely from the Angat Dam was a recipe for disaster. Aside from the growing population and need, should anything happen to the dam it would be a disaster of epic proportions. We should have been looking at viable options long before the 2019 water problem hit.

It has been our government’s responsibility to ensure adequate, new, and diverse sources of raw water and it has done a pretty bad job thus far. And I’m not just talking about this present administration but even those that came before it. This has been an issue since the 90’s when utilities were privatized and it is coming back with a vengeance. I read that in order to be on the safe side, only roughly 50-60 percent of the metro’s water should come from Angat with the remaining 40 percent coming from other sources.

The President has met with the water companies involved (if you can actually call it meeting) and basically told them to fix the problem or lose the business. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as all that. A better plan has to be put in place (one that was not discussed at said meeting) and this doesn’t just mean the band-aid solution of the China funded dam. I mean, alongside other concerns, even if they do begin working on the new dam this year the new supply won’t be available for another 2-3 years at least and that is a long time to wait for water. Additionally, I hope they really ensure that is the right path – and the right business partner for such a project. After all, the outcome will impact the water supply in the country for years to come.

Again, considering our government tends to be reactionary, I hope they take this time to really investigate the best possible, long-term solution for our water shortage problems. Between finding new water sources and educating people on how to properly use water to help avoid wastage, they should also look at the bigger picture and make sure that we do not continue destroying our country’s freshwater sources with pollution, deforestation, and improper distribution. And again, in solving the water problem be sure to look for ways to make water truly accessible to all Filipinos.

DISASTER PLANNING WATER
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