that has experienced a rapid rise in urbanization and industrialization as its population has grown rapidly¹. Unfortunately, this rapid development has come at a price of increased water pollution, with 47% of all surveyed water bodies in the country having good water quality, 40% having only fair water quality, and 13% having poor water quality². Around 50 of the 421 rivers in the Philippines are now considered to be “biologically dead,” supplying sufficient oxygen for only the most hardy species to survive there².
Causes of water pollution in the Philippines:
- Untreated Raw Sewage. Due to a lack of sufficient and effective sewage treatment infrastructure, only about 10% of the sewage in the Philippines is properly treated³. Much of this waste is directly discarded into waterways, particularly in low income urban areas that lack sufficient infrastructure to support proper treatment of this waste¹.
Such waste can spread disease-causing organisms and can cause waterborne diseases, such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis. An estimated 58% of the groundwater in the Philippines has been contaminated with coliform bacteria and should be treated¹.
- Industrial Wastewater. Specific pollutants vary by each industry, but common industrial pollutants include chromium, cadmium, lead, mercury and cyanide. Such pollutants are dumped directly into water bodies on a daily basis².
- Agricultural Wastewater. Pollutants from agriculture can include dead plants, manure, dead animals, soil erosion runoff, and pesticides and fertilizers².
- Domestic Wastewater. This can contain disease-causing organisms or toxic chemicals².
- Non-Point Sources. Can include runoff from rain and groundwater and from landfills, as well as solid wastes. This type of pollution can contain some of the same toxic chemicals that industrial wastewater contains².
- Other Sources. These can include spills from oil and other chemicals, abandoned mines, and the dumping of wastes near or directly into water bodies².
Each type of pollutant can have different toxic and negative effects that can hurt human health and the environment, resulting in high economic costs for both the population and government entities. There are an estimated 2.2 million metric tons of organic water pollution that occur in the Philippines each year².
There are a number of actions that the nation of the Philippines can take to address its national problems associated with water pollution.
- The people of the Philippines need to be made aware of the health and economic impacts of water pollution, and they should be encouraged to be become involved in decision making processes that affect water management policies. Stakeholders across all sectors also need to work together in order to prioritize and adopt actions affecting water quality⁴.
- Wastewater treatment infrastructure should be connected to all properties that are accessible and connectable, and smaller treatment solutions, such as the use of dedicated constructed wetlands to treat sewage and waterless sanitation facilities, should be used whenever possible to reduce construction costs and meet sanitation needs on a more local scale⁴.
- Wastewater fees should be increased, with high fees and fines for those who pollute water resources⁴.
- Organic and ecological farming practices, such as the the use of permaculture and biodynamic growing methods, should be adopted throughout the country, to reduce soil erosion and eliminate the need for polluting agricultural chemicals.
- The Philippines passed a national Clean Water Act in 2004, with the intention of protecting water resources. The Act aims to engage and encourage local governments, water districts, communities, and the private sector to work together to solve the nation’s water pollution challenges⁵.
- The focus of the law is to create effective wastewater treatment, production that is cleaner, and the adoption of those technologies that help to reduce waste. Incentives include tax exemptions and tax credits on imported and domestic capital equipment⁵.
- In order to ensure that sectors fulfill the requirements associated with the incentives, partnerships with local government and non-governmental organizations are required⁵.
- However, with limited resources and insufficient collaboration between organizations, the practical implementation and enforcement of the law have been inadequate to ensure compliance thus far¹.
- Increased public education, multi-sector collaborative solutions, and the proper implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act and other water quality regulations in the Philippines will be necessary to transform the nation’s water supply.