‘Highly vulnerable’ Negros included in P900M USAID safe water project

Negros Occidental and two other provinces signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) this morning, November 19, for a close to P900 million Safe Water project.

Palawan, Negros Occidental, and Sarangani all face recurring water shortages amid rising water demand, degraded watersheds, and inadequate access to water supply and sanitation services.

Through the five-year Safe Water project, USAID will provide technical assistance to help communities in these provinces gain reliable access to clean water, USAID Acting Mission Director Patrick Wesner said.

Wesner led the signing of the MOU with Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, Palawan Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez, and Sarangani Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon in a virtual program via Zoom.

Lacson hailed the partnership as “a milestone and a significant step towards a more serious and in-depth water governance for more inclusive and sustainable development in the province of Negros Occidental.”

Negros Occidental is presently considered one of the most highly vulnerable to drought and desertification and these concerns are further aggravated by water pollution, water-borne diseases, climate change, to name a few, he said.

“Skillful and educated collaborations are needed if we are to have effective, powerful, and sustainable solutions,” he said.

Lacson said a Negros Occidental water summit earlier initiated by former Rep. Alfredo Benitez and his brother, Rep. Francisco Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) helped bring the water concerns of the province to the USAID.

“The Safe Water project will tell us what the real situation is as far as our water needs in Negros Occidental…and the steps we need to take,” Lacson said.

It will help protect the province’s watershed and agricultural needs, he added.

“The U.S. government is proud to support the efforts of Palawan, Negros Occidental, and Sarangani to achieve water security. USAID will work with partners to maximize the use of data and sound analytics to guide informed decision making, identify lasting solutions, and prioritize investments,” Wesner said.

USAID’s assistance will focus on increasing access to resilient water and sanitation services, improving water resource management to ensure sustainable supply, and strengthening water sector governance. USAID will also scale up successful approaches and models by utilizing best practices from policymakers and other sector players, a project briefer from the agency said.

The USAID said current water security challenges facing the Philippines include growing population, unsustainable land uses, and severely deficient waste water management.

“With the threat of diseases like COVID-19 there will be greater demand for sustainable water supply, hygiene, sanitation services in homes and other critical facilities and establishments nationwide,” it said.

The Safe Water initiative seeks to improve water security for water-stressed communities through increased access to water supply and sanitation services, more sustainably managed water resources, and stronger enabling environment, it added.*

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