By Noreen Jazul
There are issues concerning water which need to be addressed before we drown on it — this was the message of the organizers of the Sustainability Summit 2018.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau, Enderun Colleges, AGREA, and Forest Foundation Philippines, have teamed up for the third sustainability summit which will gather over 200 delegates from top corporations, leading businesses, government, NGOs, and the academe to discuss water as a critical sustainability concern.
Specifically, the summit will wade into how water relates to energy, agriculture, infrastructure, public health, wastage, and more.
Cherrie Atilano, AGREA Agricultural System International, Inc. Founding Farmer and CEO, raised concerns about water while explaining why it was chosen as the focus for this year’s summit.
“It’s the most relevant resource we have. In the Philippines, we don’t really discuss water because we feel that we have 7,107 islands so it means you’re actually a country surrounded with too much water but the question is how much of those waters that we have in the Philippines are really consumable?” Atilano said during the press launch of the summit last Thursday, July 5.
According to Atilano, the summit will dive into three things: currents, cycles, and convergence.
“[We will be] focusing on current issues on water, the cycles of issues in water. [We will talk about] It’s the most relevant resource we have. In the Philippines, we don’t really discuss water because we feel that you know we have 7,101 islands so it means you’re actually a country surrounded with too much water but the question is how much of those waters that we have in the Philippines is really consumable?”
For his part, Enderun Colleges Director of Research also one of the speakers for the summit, Dr. Jun Salipsip, said he wanted to shed a light on the importance of water in businesses.
“When it comes to water, water sustainability or water crisis, what kind of business will suffer as a result of water crisis and what kind of business will succeed?” he said.
Citing the hospitality industry as an example, and how hotels would suffer without water, Dr. Salipsip said businesses have to be involved in the discussion of water concerns.
“We feel that when it comes to solution, the government sometimes may have difficulty solving this problem but business can solve problems, business is very efficient. As long as you can point to them there’s profit in it, they are going to make it,” he pointed out.
‘Population growth and scarcity’
While the Philippines is archipelagic and is surrounded by vast bodies of water, Dr. Salipsip said there is a possibility of a water crisis hitting the country soon due to the booming population growth.
The Enderun professor expressed worry that the country may not have enough water supply come 2040 or 2050, noting that each individual uses 50 liters per day
“There are times, I feel the water pressure is already getting lower,” he disclosed.
Enderun Colleges Director for Sustainability, Engr. Edmond Maceda, seconded his colleague’s statement, adding that population growth will have a domino effect on nature.
“The problem with population growth is a lot of agricultural lands are now being converted into cities. So, what’s happening is that our agri lands are diminishing. With population growth and poverty, a lot of people are going towards the mountain area, once they start agriculture on the hillside, it loses half the soil and causes erosion,” he stated.
‘A splash of reality’
Filipinos are taking water for granted because of it being relatively affordable have become part of the problem of sustaining water supply, according to Engr. Maceda.
He added that Filipinos, as consumers, should do their part in conserving water.
“We try our best to come up with solutions for sustainable water supply, but consumers have to be educated because consumers take water for granted,” he stated.
Atilano echoed the same sentiment, stating the people usually neglect things that are easy for them to reach, and easy for them to have.
“The Ilog Pasig is an expression of how Filipinos are not really taking care of our own resource. We have become so complacent about it,” she added.
Forest Foundation Philippines Communications Officer, Schenley Belmonte, meanwhile shared her observation on how locals utilize Sierra Madre.
“A lot of people fail to see that the forest contributes to our water supply, they filter our water they influence where and how our water supply will come from,” she told the media.
“People from Marikina and Pasig are heavily dependent on the forest of Sierra Madre for water, but the people there, they don’t really see the need to protect or conserve the forest of Sierra Madre,” she added.
‘A call for action’
Water sustainability is an important issue and there’s a need for people to act on it, the organizers of the Sustainability Summit 2018 stressed.
Even President Duterte, according to Maceda, believes the country’s water problem should be addressed.
“What President Duterte did was, he convened an inter-agency team led by NEDA, DENR to precisely come up with a roadmap leading to a water summit, it hasn’t happened yet, but what the team has done is conduct 7 individual pre-summits all over the country,” he disclosed.
“As urbanization grows and population grows, there’s more pressure on our water sources and our supply so we really need to act,” he said in closing.
The Sustainability Summit 2018 will be held on August 1 at the Tent of EnderunColleges, Fort Santiago, Taguig, City.
Joining Atiliano, Maceda, and Salipsip in the rosters of panelists and speakers are Philippine Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Solid Waste Management Act, and Biodiversity Protection Act Principal Author Dr. J.R. Nereus O. Acosta; Maynilad Water Services, Inc. Senior Assistant Vice President Engr. Francisco A. Arellano; Forest Foundation Philippines Executive DirectorAtty. Jose Andres Canivel; Environmental Management Bureau – NCR Regional Director Atty. Domingo M. Clemente, Jr.; UDENNA Water Program & Operations Manager Federico Noe Goco; MetPower Venture Partners Holdings, Inc. Managing Partner Ditmar L. Gorges; A Single Drop for Safe Water Founder Kevin Lee; Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Atty. Maria Paz G. Luna; Meliomar Inc. / Sustainable Seafood Week Philippines General Manager / Progenitor Christian Schmidradner; Bamb Ecological Technology Inc. President & CEO, Philippine Artisan Trade Inc. Co-Founder & Managing Director and Enderun Colleges Advisory Board Bryan McClelland; ARUP Associate Director Adrian Marsden; and First Philippine Holdings Chief Sustainability Officer Agnes De Jesus.