right-to-waterMANILA, Philippines – Right to water advocates, led by members of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and the consumer group Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Tagapagtangkilik ng Tubig sa Kamaynilaan (PATTAK), staged a creative action at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) main office on Friday, urging the agency to take the lead in championing the human right to water in the Philippines. 

Wearing blue masks and carrying blue placards and streamers, the activists urged CHR officials to undertake steps that will further and deepen the state’s recognition of the human right to water, and intervene in a case that was filed in the Supreme Court (GR 192088) against the privatization of the Angat hydroelectric power plant.

The group also gave CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales a blue rose with a message: “Defend our Right to Water.” FDC staged the action a few days before the commemoration of the World Water Day.

Dianne Roa-Oarde, FDC advocacy coordinator, lamented the position taken by the Philippines in a UN General Assembly Resolution passed in 26 July 2010.

“The Philippine government registered an abstain vote to a monumental document that declared the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a ‘human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights’," Roa-Oarde said.

In a letter to CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales, the group expressed its belief that “our state's failure to affirm the human right to water in this resolution has tremendous implications to the recognition, protection and promotion of our citizenry's right to such an essential element as drinking water. Existing initiatives towards the promotion and protection of this right may also be undermined by this development.”

Teody Navea, PATTAK spokesperson, said: “The government should present a clearer position in recognizing the human right to water. Otherwise, violations against this right – such as the abject refusal to provide connections for informal settlers and families living in depressed communities – will continue to persist.”

FDC also asked the CHR to intervene, legally, in a Supreme Court case on the privatization of the 246-megawatt Angat hydroelectric power plant in Bulacan.

On 19 May 2010, FDC together with the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (Ideals Inc.), Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party and Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) filed a 58-page petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Supreme Court.

The petitioners told the Supreme Court that Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) acted with grave abuse of discretion when it conducted the bidding of the Angat HEPP in secrecy and in disregard of the people’s right to information, right to water and in violation of its mandate and the Constitution.

On 24 May 2010, the High Court issued a “status quo ante” order to prevent the state-run PSALM from awarding the contract to operate Angat's hydroelectric power plant to Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water), a South Korean state-owned firm. In August 2010, it junked PSALM’s appeal to lift the restriction.

The Supreme Court has already issued a 30-day notice requiring parties to submit their respective memoranda before it finally decides on the petition. Said notice ends on March 25.

More than a power generation source, Angat Dam serves a crucial function as a water source. It is the single-most important water source of Metro Manila, providing 97 percent of the water needs of at least 12 million residents of the country’s capital. The dam also irrigates some 31,000 hectares of farms across 20 towns and municipalities in Bulacan and Pampanga. (30)

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