Water Privatization in the
Creating Inequity in People’s Access to Sufficient and Potable Water
According to the 2002 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey conducted by the
National Statistics Office, 3.2 million families (20%) do not have access
to potable water. The same study showed that majority of families without
access to clean drinking water comes from the poorest 40% of families in
The World Bank paints a similar picture as to the Filipinos’ equal access
to sufficient and safe drinking water. In its 2001 Filipino Report Card on
Pro-Poor Services, almost 8 out of 10 poor Filipinos do not have access to
home-piped water. Water consumption among half of poor and rural
households is unacceptably low at only 30 liters per capita per day.
The situation in rural areas is far worse. The same study showed that
rural communities and the major island of Mindanao are underserved as
urban households are more likely to be served by waterwork systems with
individual household connections.
The same picture is true regarding Filipinos’ access to sanitation as 13.9
% of all families do not have a sanitary toilet.
Due to the unequal access to sufficient and safe water, a significant
number of Filipinos get their water needs from doubtful sources according
to the National Resources Water Board. In fact, the poor are three times
more likely to source water from wells, springs, and communal faucets as
compared to rich Filipinos, leading to a high incidence of water-borne
diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, gastroenteritis, malaria and dengue
Unfortunately, the poor, despite having less access to water, pays more.
The World Bank study showed that on the average, the poor allocate
proportionally more of their monthly expenditure than the rich are,
amounting to almost 9% of their household expenditures to buy vended and
As a solution to the worsening crisis, the Philippine government has
turned to the privatization of the water sector in order to address the
lack of and substandard water management and supply systems.
Although climate change, pollution, exploitation and overpopulation
contribute to and exacerbate the global water crisis, the occurrence of
‘water shortages’ (i.e. shortage for the poor), in fact, is primarily a
direct result of the globalization policies of privatization and
commercialization of water.
Privatization leads to exorbitant rates and eventually, water cut-offs for
the majority who are not able to pay. Central to the water problem, is to
recognize that the problem is not water scarcity per se, but who owns and
controls the water systems and resources.
The Water for the People Network- Asia (WPNA) firmly believes that the
right to water is an extension of the human right to life, and should thus
be recognized as a fundamental human right. The WPNA is also firm on the
stand that water privatization has not and will definitely not lead to the
realization of the human right to water and thus, alternatives should be
explored by the governments as to the management of water resources
utilization and distribution systems.
The WPNA takes the opportunity to provide
relevant information to the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human
Rights on the water crisis situation in the Philippines and how the water
privatization policy of the Philippine government has done nothing to
alleviate the water crisis and has in fact, made water more inaccessible
to the poor majority.
The Water Privatization Policy in the Philippines
Privatization became an official government policy during the Marcos
administration by virtue of Presidential Decree 2029, which led to the
creation of Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCC), and by
virtue of PD 2032 which promulgated privatization as a policy, prior to
the People Power in 1986.
The implementation of the privatization policy started with the sale of
particular GOCCs (supposed white elephants or corporations owned by Marcos
cronies) by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 50. The scope of
privatization widened and included the water sector with the passage of
the Aquino administration’s RA 6957 or the BOT Law which defined BOT
schemes as “ a contractual arrangement whereby a contractor undertakes the
construction, including financing, of a given infrastructure facility, and
the operation and maintenance thereof.”............
Download the complete paper
on water privatization published by Ibon Foundation