CABASAN, BACACAY, ALBAY: For 57-year old mother Natividad “Naty” Bellen, of Zone 4, this village, a single drop of water is as good as gold and should not be wasted.
To get this precious fluid, Tiya Naty walks about a kilometer from her home. She passes through a school and a rice field until she reaches what villagers call “Kagitan” – a shallow well in the mountain surrounded by trees that was made by a certain Venancio Barcebal.
Although she only has two containers, Tiya Naty has to wait for no less than two hours before she can get her supply of drinking water that comes from an aquifer.
During school days, things get worse. Tiya Naty said residents are always quarrelling over the limited supply of drinking water and the waiting time can last until the wee hours or 3 a.m. – all that trouble for just a gallon of water.
“The dry spell is causing a lot of trouble. Our wells are drying up. If this continues, we have a big problem,” she lamented.
During daytime, residents hardly have enough drinking water and many are forced to stay up late just to get their daily supply, according to Maryjane Serrano, 33, of Zone 5, the mother of two-year old Beajane.
Elena Bongais, 65, a retired teacher of Cabasan National High School, is afraid that the water shortage could last till August because of the habagat or monsoon.
“We’re afraid because if there is no rain, we could be hit by waterborne diseases again that have caused many casualties in the past few years in the upland barangays of San Pablo and Vinisitahan. Let us pray that rain will come soon,” she said.
Roger Barrameda, the village chieftain, said the dry spell is affecting the whole island of Cagraray, Bacacay town.
Cagraray Island is an eco-tourist site in Albay province that has three possible water sources in Barangays Tanagan, Cagraray and Cagbulacao. To develop these sources, however, Barrameda said the government needs about P100 million to provide safe drinking water to 35,000 residents.
This is a hard task considering the erratic climate that has hit the province. To help residents, the provincial government is rationing water in Sto. Domingo, Daraga and the upland villages of Legazpi City. But this is no longer possible in the islands of Cagraray, Rapu-Rapu, Batan and San Miguel (CRABS) where safe drinking water is almost absent due to climate change.
To address the water shortage, Albay Governor Joey Salceda has directed the provincial health office to continue supplying water to residents using a water-purifying machine donated by the Spanish government through Agencia Espanola de Cooperation Internacional Para el Desarrollo in 2007. The machine can filter and decontaminate 33,000 liters of water per hour.
But even without the dry spell, Arnel B. Garcia, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional director in Bicol, said about 2.5 million Filipinos do not have access to safe drinking water. Of this number, 187,673 are residents of Masbate, Albay and Camarines Sur.
In Bicol, 187, 673 people do not have safe drinking water and 30 percent of more than 5 million Bicolanos get water from dug wells.
These alarming figures come from “Listahanan” or the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) of the DSWD. For the entire country, Masbate, Camarines Sur and Albay had the highest number of households without access to safe drinking water.
“Water is one of the most important substances on earth. It is a lifeline that bathes and feeds us. Having safe drinking water is essential to humans and other life forms,” Garcia said.
The United Nations (UN) high-level panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has indicated that 2.5 billion people do not have access to safe water.
Michel Jarraud, UN Water and World Meteorological Organization secretary general, said during the UN High Panel discussion held at UN University in Tokyo, Japan a few months ago that “water stress” will continue to haunt the planet 50 years from now.
“We need to have new technology. Research and development is the key element of addressing poverty, water and energy challenges,” he concluded.