As UN declares access to water as basic human right: Aquino gov’t urged to stop water privatization

The Philippine experience shows that privatization violates the human right to water, and that water shortages are a direct result of privatization of water resources and utilities.

The Aquino government should stop water privatization in the light of the United Nations’ (UN) recent resolution declaring water and sanitation as a right, according to water advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN).

According to group, the Philippine experience shows that privatization violates the human right to water, and that water shortages are a direct result of privatization of water resources and utilities. It urges the Aquino government to junk current privatization projects such as the Angat Dam, and instead conduct a review of major privatization projects like the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

The UN General Assembly approved on July 28 the resolution recognizing access to clean water and sanitation as a basic human right, citing concern for around 884 million people worldwide without access to water. The UN calls on governments to scale up efforts in ensuring clean, safe, adequate water especially in poor countries.

The WPN said that in the Philippines, the privatization of public water utilities has worsened the people’s access to water, adding that 16 out of 100 families in all income classes do not have access to safe water. In Metro Manila, water rates have also continued to increase since the privatization of the MWSS, with the two private firms increasing their basic charges by 449% (Maynilad) and 845% (Manila Water).

The group added that less than 60% of Maynilad’s service area in the west zone has 24-hour water service, while Manila Water claims 99% water supply coverage in the east zone but does not distinguish areas with direct household connection from those serviced by private water suppliers.

According to the group the recent water shortage in Metro Manila should challenge the Aquino administration to reverse the privatization process in water that has benefited only the private water corporations and elite families in the country, while further increasing the burden of poor Filipinos with excessive user rates and deficient service. The UN resolution should also prompt the government to take more seriously its responsibility of providing adequate and affordable water for the poor, the WPN said. (end)

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