Water shortage hounds several Bicol towns

By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 29 (PNA) — Several towns in the Bicol Region, specifically in Albay province, are now experiencing water shortage due to the C phenomenon.

Sto. Domingo town mayor Herbie Aguas said the town had been experiencing dwindling water supply as their main sources of water for their reservoirs were already drying up.

“We’re experiencing water shortage right now due to dry spell. We have four water reservoirs but all of these, based on our assessment, are drying up with the warming climate,” Aguas said.

He said his office is looking for another water sources before the erratic weather brought by El Niño phenomenon picks up late this year.

Aguas expressed apprehension that the water scarcity in her town will even worsen in the next few months until the first quarter of 2016.

“We’re quite afraid that the water crisis will affect our people for eight to 10 months. We need to find a water source, that’s why I’m seeking assistance from our constituents who own lands with aquifer or spring for us (local government) to develop and utilize to provide water in our faucets,” Aquas said.

Similar predicament is now affecting the towns of Oas, Guinobatan and Bacacay — especially the islands of Cagraray, Batan, and San Miguel.

The prevailing irregular rainfall following the El Niño phenomenon is badly affecting the islands of Cagraray, Rapu-Rapu, Batan and San Miguel (CRABS) as the people in these areas are getting water from open wells and aquifer.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon in which warmer water from the western Pacific Ocean flows toward the east, disrupting atmospheric systems and creating a major shift in rainfall, bringing floods and landslides to arid countries and drought to areas in the western Pacific.

The state weather bureau warned that the El Niño phenomenon would affect the country for 10 months.

Cedric Daep, chief of Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) told Dr. Nathaniel Rempillo, provincial health officer, to check municipalities with reported water shortage and provide water ration if needed.

Daep said they would provide water rationing in towns affected with water shortage using the state-of-the art water purifier machine given by the Spanish government to Albay.

In the event of water shortage, the provincial government of Albay can filter and decontaminate dirty water and can supply safe drinking water to waterless communities using the water purifying machine donated by the Spanish government through the Agencia Espanola de Cooperation Internacional Para el Desarrollo (AICED) in 2006, shortly after the occurrence of super typhoon “Reming” that killed more than 1,000 people and left multi-billion-peso destruction here.

The water purifying machine can filter and decontaminate 33,000 liters of water per hour and it is the province’s state-of-the art equipment used in times of emergencies and in responding to areas affected by natural calamities across the country.

However, the water purification machine cannot function in the so-called CRABS areas in the absence of large volumes of water that can supply the logistical needs of the machine and there is no road access to transport the equipment.

Water is the most basic need of the people for their day-to-day survival, according to Arnel B. Garcia, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Bicol regional director.

Garcia said that even without dry spell or El Nino phenomenon, there are at least 187, 673 poor Bicolanos without safe drinking water.

He said 30 percent of more than 5 million Bicolanos get water sources from dug wells and across the country, 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.

These alarming figures came from the Listahanan or the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) of the DWSD..

Based on DSWD records, the provinces of Albay, Masbate and Camarines Sur posted the highest number of households without access to safe drinking water, thus, these have unsanitary practices due to poverty.

“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’ World Water Development report during the high-level panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda reported that 2.5 billion people do not have access to safe water.

The poor access to safe drinking water is even worsening during erratic climate occurrences like dry spell and El Niño phenomenon. (PNA)