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Keynote Message of Secretary Dr. Enrique T. Ona for the 2012 National Search for Barangay with Best Sanitation Practices Awarding Ceremony

January 16, 2013

DiosdadoMacapagal Hall, 10th floor, Land Bank Plaza, M.H. del Pilar, Malate, Manila

The Department of Health today joins our partners in government and the other sectors in celebrating this concerted effort to bring good sanitation for Filipinos.

Today’s occasion is the culmination activity of the 2012 National Search for Barangay with Best Sanitation Practices. 

As everyone in this room knows, the search is an annual event spearheaded by the Department of Health since 2008 when the United Nations General Assembly declared the International Year of Sanitation with the goal of accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal target for sanitation. Now on its 5th year, the search continually provides an opportunity for us to affirm our fullest compliance to our mandated functions.  This also manifests the great value we put on the cooperation of all Local Government Units in the country to accelerate progress in sanitation. Likewise, today’s event offers another opportunity to share best practices on sanitation that can lead to more affirmative actions to realize our goals and targets even beyond the MDGs.

Good sanitation and drinking-water are universally accepted as being essential for human life, dignity and human development. Unfortunately, they continue to be global concerns because of the varying importance and attention given to it. While there have been a gradual recognition of and improvements in the last decade, efforts must be sustained to generate more support for the sector. Without rapid progress in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), the growth of national economies will continue to be impeded. Evidence suggests that lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation costs countries between 1% and 7% of their annual Gross Domestic Product.  

Globally, it is clear that there have been remarkable gains, particularly by some countries, in improving access to sanitation. The 2012 Joint Monitoring Project (JMP) Progress Report (UNICEF-WHO 2012) estimates that 63% of the world’s population has access to improved sanitation. Despite these gains, the UN-WATER GLASS report cited that even if the rate of progress cited in the JMP Report were to continue until the end of the MDG period, universal sanitation coverage would still be far off  in 2015.  About 2.4 billion people would remain to have no access to improved sanitation facilities.   Given this scenario, billions will continue to be at risk of WASH or Water, Sanitation and Hygiene-related diseases such as diarrhea, which in 2011 alone killed 2 million people and caused 4 billion episodes of the disease.*

For the Philippines, the JMP report revealed that there has been a meaningful increase in sanitation coverage in both urban and rural areas in the country from 1990 to 2010. Overall coverage has increased from 45% (1990) to 69% (2010). The disparity between urban and rural sanitation coverage was greatly reduced from 24 percentage points in 1990 to only 10 percentage points in 2010.  The report also revealed that if the current coverage trend is confirmed, the Philippines will attain the MDG sanitation target by 2015. This is truly good news for all of us, however, despite this improvement, we have to consider that, about 1of 12 Filipinos still practice open defecation.  Moreover, the recent calamities caused by typhoons in the last 2 - 3 years have destroyed thousands of houses and have significantly affected the country’s sanitation coverage.  The last typhoon Pablo damaged nearly 100,000 houses in southern Mindanao including those in Barangay Bantacan, New Bataan and Barangay Banlag, Monkayo both in Compostela Valley Province which happened to be two of our national nominees from Region XI. The barangays have reached their goals which qualified them in this search but unfortunately, on the night of December 4, 2012, all of their preparations and achievements were washed away by Pablo, just a day before the national validation was conducted.

Today, while we are all gathered here to celebrate, we are all also called for the challenge of accelerating all our efforts to meet our goals and as the World Health Organization document says it best “turning our commitment into reality.” We in the national government are one with you, the LGUs, the private sector, the donor community and our development partners in this battle. The challenge of delivering sustainable sanitation and safe water for all Filipinos is truly a monumental one.  But with our deep commitment and collective efforts, our goal will be achieved.  Failure to realize universal and sustainable access to sanitation and water services especially of the poor comes with a shocking price tag—waste in human lives and the continued cycle of poverty among our poorest people.

Hence, we need to move quickly to change the pace and achieve our targets not only for the MDG but achieve universal coverage.  With our full commitment and concerted efforts working towards common goals, we can move sanitation and water high up in the agenda and achieve better Health for All Filipinos.

Finally, I wish to congratulate all of the 32 barangays from 30 LGUs in 16 Regions for meeting the high  standards for sanitation and to the winners of this 2012 National Search for Barangay with Best Sanitation Practices.Keep up the good work.   The Department of Health wishes everyone success in your Total Sanitation campaigns leading to a healthy city and municipality.

Thank you and good evening.