Gov’t Urged to Review, Cancel Water Permits of Huge Firms to Ease Water Crisis, El Niño

Press Release
March 2, 2010

Environmental groups slammed the government’s inadequacy in addressing the on-going drought and water shortage and urged the government to review then cancel the water rights and permits of big businesses who wastes and pollutes water, such as mining projects and golf-courses.

Sectoral and progressive organizations under the Water for the People Network (WPN), with Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment identified privatization and the unequal distribution of water resources in the Philippines as the real causes of the water shortage in the the country.

“Much of our water resources such as rivers, springs, waterfalls and underground water are being controlled and used by big foreign and private corporations through their water permits. Water is primarily treated as an economic good to be distributed, controlled and profit from by big business and the government. Water as a basic right and basic public service such as for irrigation and community water supply are only secondary” said Mr. Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan PNE.

According to the 2007 summary of water permits granted by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), 19,695 entities were the granted permits to a total volume of 60,164,70.752 liter per second (lps) that may be used for any of the following purposes: domestic, irrigation, power, fisheries, industrial, livestock, recreational and commercial.

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The power sector takes up much of the water, with a volume of 3,432,133.193 lps or 57% of the total volume granted to all the water permit holders, while other sectors receive much less such as irrigation (35%) and domestic (3%).

The power sector gets the lion share of the volume of water allocated by the government but it only has 235 water permit grantees or just 1% of the total number of grantees. On the other hand, irrigation has the biggest number of grantees 10,329 (52%), followed by domestic 6,447 (33%), industrial 1,403, fisheries 482, commercial 343.

While water for irrigation and domestic supply were being used by the overwhelming majority of the population particularly the farmers and urban residence the two sectors only get 35% and 3% of the total volume of water extracted from surface and ground water sources

“Drought and lack of rainfall brought by the El nino phenomenon, does not cause the water crisis but in fact compounds the effects of the long-standing practice of our government of appropriating our resources and selling them to a few foreign and businesses instead of ensuring clean, cost-efficient water be available to the majority of the people.”

According to Mr. Bautista the unequal distribution of water resources is also very pronounced in the provinces hit by long dry spell and water scarcity.

“In Region II (Cagayan Valley region which includes the provinces of Batanes, Nueva Viscaya, Cagayan, Isabela and Quirino) a total of 1,492 water permits were granted with 96% or 1,426 given to farmers/irrigators and only 2% (32) for power corporations. Yet it is the power generators who control and use 78% (1,054,306 lps) of the total water volume in the region while the majority of the farmers and irrigators only get 22% (297,347 lps).”

In Isabela province, the permit holder with the largest volume of water is the National Power Corporation. In Benguet province, mining company Benguet Corporation is the holder of several big water permits.

“We call on the government officials to review and cancel the water permits of big private and foreign corporations who are wasteful and pollutive. A moratorium on issuing water permits to big private corporations should also be implemented. Water allocations given to these corporations should be immediately channeled for public consumption and benefits such as irrigation and domestic supply. But more importantly, the Arroyo government should stop and reverse its policy of water privatization which is the reason why our water resources are not efficiently used and managed,” Mr. Bautista ended.#

Reference: Clemente Bautista Jr. National Coordinator, Kalikasan-PNE

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