Water districts can’t meet funding requirements for sanitary sewers

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 Aug) — Water districts around the country are mandated to attend to both water systems and sanitary sewers, but most local water districts have yet to supply water to the barangay level and cannot meet the requirements to manage sanitary sewers.

“Water districts cannot access funds for this. It is practical to prioritize the supply of potable water than sewer systems,” said Juanito Aroa, Malaybalay City Water District general manager.

He said there should be a collective effort to secure funds for the sanitary sewers.

Aroa is former president of the Mindanao Association of Water Districts (MAWD). In June this year, he attended a special course on managing water utilities, water and sewer infrastructure operation and maintenance and another course in Chicago, United States provided by the American Water Works Association.

He was with two other board members of the MCWD.

Aroa said there is no need to take the sanitary sewers from the responsibility of the water districts as that was provided by Presidential Decree 198 issued on May 25, 1973.

He said the government should instead fund water districts to attend to the sanitary sewers of the countryside.

The Presidential Decree, issued by the late ousted President Ferdinand Marcos, became the national policy favoring local operation and control of water systems; authorizing the formation of local water districts and providing for the government and administration of such districts. It also chartered a national administration to facilitate improvement of local water utilities; granting said administration such powers as are necessary to optimize public service from water utility operations.

According to the decree “domestic water systems and sanitary sewers are two of the most basic and essential elements of local utility system, which, with a few exceptions, do not exist in provincial areas in the Philippines.”

Earlier this month, Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde told MindaNews the government is piloting sanitary sustainability in compliance with the seventh Millennium Development Goal, which is on ensuring environmental sustainability.

Villaverde spoke at the National Dialogue on Sustainable Sanitation in Cagayan de Oro City, which the DOH convened from August 10 to 14, dubbed to be the first big formal event held on sanitation sustainability in Mindanao.

He identified the possible Mindanao pilot areas for sustainable sanitation as Alabel in Sarangani, Polomolok in South Cotabato and General Santos City. The other pilot areas are in Bauko in Mt. Province, Guiuan in Eastern Samar and Dagupan City.

The MDG 7 also intends to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse the loss of environmental resources, reduce biodiversity loss, and achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.

Another target is to achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)