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The Provincial Government of Sarangani in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) conducted on Thursday, March 10, the first Sarangani Provincial Water Summit at Greenleaf Hotel in General Santos City.
The summit aims to discuss the current water status of Sarangani and present relevant data to address the water security challenge in the area.
One of the highlights of the water summit was the presentation of the proposed Sarangani Integrated Water Security Plan, an integrated watershed management plan which will help solve the pressing water problems in the province.
“There are times that we experience shortage of water. That’s why most of our LGUs keep on constructing water facilities or infrastructures. But that’s not the end of it. There are many issues that we need to consider,” Assistant Provincial Administrator for Operations Engr. Gerald Faciol said.
During the summit, he presented the Sarangani Integrated Water Security Plan comprising four areas of concern – (1) the problems in water supply and sanitation, and water resources management in Sarangani; (2) the strategies that will help address the identified problems; (3) the targets to achieve before 2030; and (4) the needed resource requirements.
Faciol said Sarangani is dependent on groundwater. This resource is depleting due to unsustainable practices like deforestation. It needs sustainable measures to help solve the water crisis in the province. This initiative is one of the ways to help resolve this issue.
“Water is finite. It’s not available all the time. We really have to manage this resource. It’s high time that this plan should come out already so that our investment would not be considered as fragmented,” Provincial Planning and Development Office Head Engr. Alain Alcala said.
“We have to focus on what would be our priority investment when we talk about water, for us to have sustainability, more effective and doable in terms of water utilization,” he said.
Alma Porciuncula, the Chief of Party of USAID Safe Water Project, also presented the Sarangani Baseline Data, Provincial Integrated Water Security Framework and Planning Process. She emphasized the important role of LGUs in implementing programs to address the water crisis in Sarangani.
“We are very happy with the response of this project. I can see that many are interested in it. I hope that the provincial government will sustain this commitment until its implementation. We hope that they continue this plan and fund it,” Porciuncula said.
CP David, Ph.D., from Geosciences Foundation Inc., presented the Hydrologic studies of Sarangani watersheds via video conference. He said that climate change is one of the factors on why Sarangani’s watersheds are depleting.
The afternoon session had a Knowledge Forum that discussed: (1) Water Resource Management; (2) Water Supply and Sanitation; and (3) Investment on Water Supply and Sanitation and Water Resource Management. The forum was led by Safe Water Field Manager for Sarangani Clarissa Rendon.
Sarangani is the first province in the Philippines to implement the Safe Water project. The USAID signed a five-year, P869-million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Palawan, Negros Occidental, and Sarangani to address water security challenges faced by communities in these provinces.
USAID provides technical assistance to help these provinces gain reliable access to clean water. The project started in 2020 and will end in 2024.
The Safe Water project also collaborates with private sectors and non-government organizations to empower communities to become better environmental stewards, builds local capacity to deliver clean drinking water and improved sanitation services, and strengthens stakeholder engagement toward a long-term water security.
USAID’s assistance focuses on increasing access to resilient water and sanitation services, improving water resource management to ensure sustainable supply, and strengthening water sector governance. USAID also scales up successful approaches and models by utilizing best practices from policymakers and other sector players.
“With the data presented, I hope everyone wakes up and will do their part. Hopefully the people will be empowered and push the government or the policymakers to make this plan into fruition,” Porciuncula said.
“On behalf of the provincial government, we extend our heartfelt thanks to the USAID. It’s an eye opener that we should manage this resource. We should not spoil it. Like I said, water is finite. There is an end for this resource if we cannot manage its water utilization. We really have to be engaged in this planning process,” Engr. Alcala said. (Genory Vanz Alfasain/Sarangani Chamber of Commerce)
photo by Jake Narte/Sarangani Provincial Information Office
Originally published in Philippine Information Agency