25 June 2006
As we launch the Blue Drop campaign on this feast day of St. John the Baptist, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) calls on everyone to put water back to its sacred place in the circle of life. Let us protect our right to life, let us defend our right to water.
Water, like air, is sacred to life. It makes up 60 to 70 percent of the composition of every living entity. It pervades a human being’s existence from the moment of conception up to her or his last breath. It is a cleansing agent or symbol of purification and courier of blessings during rites and rituals of different faiths.
Such is the importance and uniqueness of water that no other element can replace it in its many functions. The United Nations even hailed, in its General Comment No. 15 to the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the right to this building block of life as the most basic of all human rights.
This priceless valuation of water, however, is increasingly losing its intensity and prevalence in our society. After all the articulations on its irreplaceable role in the circle of life, water is not now being given the respect it deserves.
Today, the prevailing notion of water is that it is a consumer product—a mere market commodity being traded for profit, which means that people’s enjoyment of this life-giving liquid now depends on the contents of their pockets. And this sad truth, appallingly, is being silently propagated by policymakers in our society.
The Filipinos stand witness to how the government, egged on by multilateral development banks and private corporations, backs aways from it responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill the people’s right to clean, adequate and affordable water services.
What is happening with water service provision in Metro Manila is no secret: contract revisions to accommodate profit motives, fast-rising water prices already 500 and 700 times higher than beginning tariffs, dirty water, cholera outbreaks, overcharging and below par performance of the corporate water providers. What makes matters worse is the government’s willingness to bail these corporations out of their wrong business assumptions and moves. Thus, the extension of income tax holiday for Manila Water and Arroyo administration’s rescue of bankrupt Maynilad’s owners by using public funds to buy 84 percent of virtually non-existent shares in the company.
Yet, despite the failure of water privatization in Metro Manila, despite glaring proof that universal access to water cannot be achieved under a profit-oriented framework, the Arroyo government still walks hand-in-hand with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in preparing the country’s water utilities for private sector participation.
FDC believes it is time to end this profanity. Water, being the basic foundation of life, should be made available to all. This right, the most basic of all human rights, will never be respected under a regime that treats water provision as an income-generating business enterprise.