BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
The heat from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. these days reminds us of one substance we need to avoid dehydration and heat stroke – water. Have it ready by your side. Drink it when thirsty. The noontime or mid-afternoon sun burns like the heat wave from the kitchen fire to a cook.
Potable water, rather, the lack of it, kills. The online news InterAksyon.com, quoting the United Nations International Children Educational Fund (UNICEF) reports that 2,000 children under five die daily from diarrheal diseases, some 1,800 of that caused by ailments linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation and poor hygiene.
That figure appears unnoticed or simply taken as matter-of-course perhaps for being “not alarming”.
That magnitude is like the daily horror of a fire gutting the Iloilo National High School, killing half its student population. The only difference though is that all the burnt bodies are those of pre-schoolers or below five years old. Pardon this repetition: that accident happens daily.
InterAksyon uses a different analogy – 90 buses loaded with kindergarten pupils crashing daily down the ravine “with no survivor”. In the Philippines, the situation is not getting better because whatever gain the government might have attained in improving sanitation “is eroded by worsening poverty”, goes the report.
Iloilo City (which Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog dubs “my pride”) is bedeviled by inefficient water system. The Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) has squandered opportunity these past decades skirting its mandate of expanding its pipelines. MIWD pipes cover only 30 percent of households of its coverage area. The rest source their water from wells or commercial distributors, without guarantee the commodity they pump or buy is safe.
The city health office has no data on the impact of scarce water on poor city residents; stated otherwise, we have yet to know the effect of lack of access to potable water on poor Ilonggos.
However, quoting from the same UNICEF report, InterAksyon.com adds that “26 percent” of, or 24 million, Filipinos are exposed to unsanitary living conditions. Further, some 8 million Filipinos have no toilets and defecate in the open. You go to the shorelines of Iloilo City, from Sto. Nino Sur, Arevalo, up to the city proper, and residents will confess that the stretch of more than 6 kilometers of beachfront serves as pre-dawn latrines to people.
Iloilo City is simply cursed with local officialdom that mistakes good governance for showbiz. Yours truly has been getting “invites” from the social medium to “like” Iloilo City in the search for “new wonder cities” in the world. Accordingly, the more “likes”, the bigger the chance of winning.
The campaign must be working as city hall’s media spinners crowed in a Sunday morning broadcast thanking Ilonggos for “liking” which pushed “my city my pride” among the five “best” in the Philippines, and further qualifying it in the “world” competition. The worst embarrassment to fall on Iloilo City is landing among the top 10 “New Wonder Cities of the World” in a competition that at best is “bogus”.
Whatever “crown” the city may get from that ersatz contest is, well, no substitute to government investing the people’s resources on clean water, sanitation and hygiene – all of which Iloilo City lacks.
All that we have is a set of officialdom who prefers to plant billboards regaling us with slogans like “Uswag Iloilo”, “My City My Pride”, “Arangka Iloilo”, ad nauseam. The new-wonder-cities-of-the-world game is for kids that city officialdom loves to play.