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CAR’s toilet and water woes, issues on hygiene addressed
by Rimaliza Opiña

In 2001, a tissue paper advertisement was prematurely withdrawn from being shown in various forms of media when feminists and a religious sect complained the ad degdraded women, and erroneously portrayed sanitation practices in the Philippines.

To those who do not remember, part of the ad’s jingle went: “Sa bukid, walang papel, ikiskis lang sa pilapil.”

Although the advertisement was promptly pulled out, it indirectly said a lot about the Philippines’ sanitation system, in particular the presence or absence of toilets in every household, as well as how sewage is disposed.

Then and now, there are still those who practice “open defecation,” said Engr. III Nelson Cara of the regional health department’s Environmental and Occupational Health Cluster.

As described in the advertisement, the footpath (pilapil) in rice paddies or the forest have become their toilets. In other areas, they share the toilet usually of neighbors. In populated areas, there are those who relieve themselves in plastic bags and dispose them like ordinary waste.

Prior to the implementation of the government’s poverty reduction program called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the Department of Social Welfare and Development conducted a survey identifying the general condition of those who may be classified “poor” in the country.

For CAR, the results of the National Household Targeting System showed that out of the 232,228 assessed households, 77,811 households were classified poor.

Out of the 77,811, a total of 12,842 households do not have access to toilets. Kalinga had the highest with 5,365 households, followed by Abra with 3,100 households; Benguet (including Baguio) with 1,181; Mountain Province with 1,173; Ifugao with 1,105; and Apayao 918.

Poverty, inadequate water supply, and even convenience are reasons why over 12,000 households do not have toilets, Cara said.

But defecating in the open contaminates sources of water.

According to the Department of Health, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases still rank among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines. Nationwide, the incidence rate for these diseases is 1,397 per 100,000 population while mortality rate is 6.7 percent per 100,000 population.

In Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals, environmental sustainability was listed as one of the poverty-reduction measures of United Nations member-states. Under it is providing access to clean water and improved sanitation to poor households. The target is by 2015, the proportion of households with access to safe water supply and with sanitary toilets should be halved.

Data from the regional Statistical Coordination Board showed there is high pace of progress in terms of providing access to clean water and a medium pace of progress in terms of providing access to sanitary toilets.

In response, the DOH has distributed plastic toilet bowls (PTB) to affected households. These PTBs are water-efficient for it only requires a liter of water to flush it, Cara said.

So far, 9,500 PTBs have been distributed in affected provinces. He said he is confident that even before 2015, all affected households will each have their own toilets, thereby contributing to the DOH’s “zero open defecation” program and the MDGs.

NSCB data showed the proportion of families with sanitary toilet facility increased from 67.6 percent in 1990 to 92.5 percent in 2012, already higher than the 2015 target of 83.8 percent.

Government’s water program

Along with sanitation is the need for water.

“Water and sanitation cannot be separate,” said Engr. Rene Valera, chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s Local Capability Development Division.

He said the agency’s Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig para sa Lahat (Salintubig) was designed to respond not only to Goal 7 but also to the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan, the Philippine Water Supply Sector Roadmap, and the Philippine Sustainable Sanitation Roadmap.

In partnership with the DILG, DOH, and National Anti-Poverty Commission, Salintubig was conceptualized to supply water system for 455 waterless municipalities, barangays, health centers, and resettlement sites in the country.

Valera said Salintubig aims to enhance the capacity of local government units and water service providers in the planning, implementation, and operation of water supply facilities.

Nationwide, the program is expected to increase by 50 percent water service for the waterless population, reduce by 20 percent the incidence of waterborne and sanitation-related diseases and improve access of the poor to sanitation services by 10 percent by 2015.

Salintubig’s components include rehabilitation, expansion, and upgrading of water supply systems including water treatment systems; training for newly-organized water users, associations, community-based organizations; support for new technologies for water supply delivery and sanitation systems; and training, mentoring, coaching, and capacity development of LGUs.

Under the tripartite agreement, the NAPC using the NHTS data, identifies communities without access to clean water, the DOH provides the funds for infrastructure, and the DILG capacitates communities.

Primary beneficiaries are waterless municipalities, rural health units, resettlement sites, waterless thematic areas/poorest waterless barangays with high incidence of waterborne diseases, and LGUs awarded with seal of good housekeeping.

Development of water sources is divided into three. Level I dwells on the development of point source supply such as rain and river catchment, treatment facilities, spring development, and shallow waters. Level 2 which is “source development” is for expansion or development of communal wells, spring boxes, deep well, transmission pipe, communal tap distribution, and tapping of surface water and Level 3 is tapping of water sources by water districts and implemented in coordination with the Local Water Utilities Administration.

Unlike in other LGUs where some communities do not have access to clean water, Valera said the Cordillera, watershed cradle of the north, is lucky for in the projects implemented by the agency, many of the poor towns in the region have communal water systems, which needed only to be improved or expanded to allow for more water to be extracted.

In the March 2014 status report of Salintubig projects, 52 waterworks projects in different barangays and RHUs are already in various stages of construction and 45 Level 2 projects have been completed.

With an 80 percent accomplishment rate, Valera said Goal 7 is likely to be achieved with the proportion of families with access to water supply increased from 73.0 percent in 1990 to 84.8 percent in 2010, already near the 2015 target of 86.5 percent, NSCB data further showed.


Progress reports indicating that the Cordillera is likely to achieve Goal 7 should be no reason for concerned agencies to be nonchalant.

In terms of sanitation, Cara said the DOH, in coordination with LGUs, still has a lot to accomplish. He said households that still use close or open pits will have to upgrade this into flush toilets. The NHTS data showed there are 32,250 households that still use open or close pits.

Overall, the challenge remains in populated areas. According to the Asian Development Bank, ideally, every household and every establishment should be connected to a sewerage system where effluents have to undergo treatment first before disposal.

In CAR, only Baguio City has a sewerage treatment plant (STP) but only 60 percent of the city’s 128 barangays are connected to the facility. This means the rest are connected to a communal septic tank or have private septic tanks, said City Environment and Parks Development Officer Cordelia Lacsamana.

Lacsamana said while private septic tanks lessen the burden of the city STP, there are also dangers in this practice.

She said pollution of aquifers is probable if septic tanks are not properly designed. Saturation and caving in is also likely to occur because of the city’s geographic makeup.

She said conversion of former residential buildings into commercial establishments also burdens private septic tanks. Based on Philippine and international sanitation standards, septic tanks should be desludged every three to five years.

Lacsamana said in the Philippines, desludging is only done when toilets can no longer be flushed. “Imagine a 30-year-old house, with a septic tank that has not been desludged also for 30 years. It means it has already been saturated. Tapos mag-co-convert pa into commercial.”

For water,the ADB said government’s program on provision of water is not responsive to climate change.

Valera confirmed feasibility studies for the Salintubig have been limited to estima-ting water usage for an increasing population for the next five years only. The study, however, does not include contingency in cases of drought.

Some LGUs are also not prepared to undertake waterworks projects because of lack of technical capability. Valera said municipal engineers are trained to build roads and buildings but not in hydrology, which is a specialized field.

Securing the approval of indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) for the issuance of a free, prior, and informed consent for the tapping of water sources is also one of the obstacles in government’s efforts of channeling water from the source to the community.

The cost of materials is also a factor. Valera said materials are not locally available, making the cost of construction expensive.

Beyond 2015

Planning plays a crucial role to ensure that as population grows, the interventions adopted by the government is sustained even after 2015.

Valera said the DILG continues to coordinate with municipal and provincial chief executives to facilitate dialogues with ICCs affected by the tapping of water sources within their ancestral domains.

In communities where water systems have been established, barangay water and sanitation systems have been formed, which eventually will evolve into cooperatives managed by the community. This way, residents are taught to be responsible in managing water resources and turn it into a self-sustaining enterprise.

In the Salintubig, Phase 2 of the program is to have individual household connections.

In populated areas, the Local Water Utilities Administration’s assistance would be needed for the establishment of water districts, said Valera.

He said Tabuk City should begin preparing for the inevitable increase of population, as businesses begin to mushroom in the region’s newest city.

In Baguio City, four companies have signified interest in supplying water to Baguio. Maynilad is reportedly conducting a feasibility study.

In the meantime, the Baguio Water District and the city government agree the Water Code have to be strengthened, especially provisions that regulate drilling of water by private water suppliers.

The BWD has proposed for the installation of production meters by drillers and water delivery refillersfor monitoring of how much water has been consumed by commercial suppliers of water.

In partnership with other government agencies, peoples organizations, non-government organizations, and the city government, BWD is also beefing up its efforts of protecting the city’s watersheds, which are all now under critical condition, due to intrusion of informal settlers.

For the sewerage system, Lacsamana said the city government is planning on building a second STP. To prepare for this, it has partnered with the Benguet Electric Cooperative to conduct an inventory of households connected to the STP. The survey is expected to conclude this year.

The Cepmo is also exploring new technologies in sewerage treatment.

Maynilad is also conducting a feasibility study on technologies that are peculiar to Baguio’s situation. It is also coordinating with the city council and the City Buildings and Architecture Office to require new constructions to build their own sewage treatment facilities.
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:: Rising above poverty –– still an MDG challenge in CAR
:: Bridging traditional and modern maternal care
:: CAR needs to double efforts in gender equality
:: Perspective on Cordillera’s progress along the MDGs
:: Aiming for a responsible and AIDS–free generation
:: Increasing forest covers and wildlife conservation glitches
:: The rewards, challenges of bringing children to school
:: The Millenium Dev’t Goals: Towards a better future
:: CAR’s own ‘branchifying’ festival–versions
:: Convergence efforts key to sustain gains beyond 2015
:: Mobilizing TB prevention initiatives through CorCat

Informatics Institute
InterContinental Hotels Group
Medline International Training Institute Baguio
National Economic and Development Authority

Baguio Central University
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Department of Agriculture – CAR
Department of Education – CAR
Department of Health – CAR
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
MMS Development Training Center Corporation
Municipality of La Trinidad
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
Philex Mining Corporation
Pines City Colleges
University of the Philippines

Ahead Tutorial and Review
Baguio Memorial Chapels Inc.
Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc.
Benguet State University
BSBT College Inc.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – CAR
Commission on Higher Education – CAR
Congressman Nicasio M. Aliping Jr.
Cordillera School of Digital Arts
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Trade and Industry – CAR
Dreamforce Review and Training Center
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commercial
Filipino–Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc.
Ganza and Solibao Restaurants
Governor Nestor B. Fongwan
John Hay Management Corporation
La Funeraria Paz, Inc.
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
NARDA’S / WINACA Eco Cultural Village
NIIT Baguio
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Montessori
Philippine Information Agency – CAR
Philippine National Police – Police Regional Office – COR
Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet
STI College Baguio
The Manor


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