22 April 2005
On the occasion of Earth Day's 35th anniversary celebration with the theme Protecting Our Children and Our Future, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) of the Philippines, calls attention to the plight of children worldwide who suffer unnecessarily due to lack of access to clean, safe and affordable water-a ituation worsened by the increasing presence of profit-hungry corporations in the water industry.
The World Water Development Report describes that children, and women, have borne the brunt of the sorry state of water provision in many countries. Yearly in the past decades, 6,000 people, mainly children under five, die because of lack of sufficient access to water. UNICEF has declared that "the growing disparity between the haves and the have nots in terms of access to basic services is killing around 4000 children every day and underlies many more of the 10 million child deaths each year."
The unnecessary suffering of children worldwide due to diseases caused by dirty water and poor hygiene and the burden they share with their mothers in fetching water, often from unreliable sources, is intensified by the greed of corporate water providers who find it easy to sacrifice the needs of people in the altar of profit.
The Philippine water privatization experience, along with those of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Cochabamba, El Alto and La Paz (Bolivia), Jakarta (Indonesia), Atlanta (Georgia, U.S.A.) and in many other parts of the world, cannot be simply ignored. Over the past years, water services in the hands of private corporations have seen skyrocketing water tariffs well beyond the reach of any, with minor service expansion and highly questionable quality of water.
In barely a span of two years, nine people have died and around 800 people were hospitalized due to cholera, gastroenteritis, and typhoid outbreaks in Tondo, Malabon, and Pasay City in Metro Manila. In just eight years after the capital city's water system was privatized, water rates have increased by 500 (West Zone) to 700 (East Zone) percent. Service targets are unmet and water losses are at an all time high of 62 percent.
And yet the Philippine government, in connivance with multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, continue to defend the interest of private water corporations through a series of bailouts and numerous concessions to ensure the profitability of the companies even at the expense of public interest.
It is time to wake up from the stupor created by the misconception that privatization would bring much-needed improvements in the water sector.
Water, a basic requirement to sustain human life, is too precious to be left in the hands of profit-oriented entities.
FDC, a broad alliance of progressive organizations and individuals, enjoins the whole world to rise up to the challenge of corporate-driven privatization. For the sake of our children and our future, let us all work together to keep water in public hands.