EU chamber calls for talks on looming water crisis

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The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) is urging the public and the private sector to discuss and develop strategies to avert a looming water crisis amid the effects of the prolonged El Niño phenomenon.

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Henry Schumacher, ECCP vice president for external affairs, said that the government, the private sector, and stakeholders in the water sector should convene and come up with solutions to avoid a water crisis, as the country is continuing to experience extreme hot weather that drags water levels down to critical levels.

Last month, the country’s heat index set an all-time record, reaching 51 degrees Celsius in Nueva Ecija on April 11, only three degrees below the “extreme danger” temperature of 54 degrees Celsius that can trigger heat stroke.

Since the start of the dry season, the Philippines has experienced temperatures in the high 30s to 40 degrees Celsius nationwide.

The ECCP vice president said the public and private sector should conceive solutions to ensure enough water supplies for the agriculture sector, as well as sufficient, readily available drinking water.

“Metro Manila, along with several other key cities in the country including Angeles, Baguio, Cebu, and Davao, will most likely experience severe water shortages by 2025. What we are experiencing right now are telling signs that point in that direction,” Schumacher was quoted as saying.

“We need to come up with ways in which everyone can continue to have access to sustainable water supplies. There has to be water security in the country. Filipinos must learn how to conserve water and reduce water pollution,” he added.

The Philippines is the second Southeast Asian country to raise a public alarm on the scarcity of water after Thailand did last month.

Schumacher said about 85 percent of the fresh water consumed in the country goes to the agriculture sector, while the rest goes to other industries and household consumption.

The ECCP vice president said the European business group will push for “the creation of a super agency” responsible for all water-related matters in the country once the multisectoral dialogue is convened.

“A lot of communities in the provinces right now are being deprived of a reliable water supply. In 10 years, these very same communities, heavily dependent on farming, will have no water supply at all if water resources are not managed properly,” he said.

Schumacher said it unacceptable for the country to experience a water crisis when fresh water supply from dams, lakes, rivers, and streams amounts to 146 billion cubic meters, while the total amount of groundwater is only about 20 billion cubic meters.

“There is enough freshwater that can be tapped. It is just a matter of proper management, infrastructure development, coordination between the government and private sector, and the public learning how to use it properly,” Schumacher said.

He also said there is a need to increase investments in tapping fresh water sources and the use of technology including sewerage treatment and desalination.

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Philippines has barely begun to engage in the essential task of improving its low level of water security.

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