State of water : Philippines
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State of water environmental issues
Philippines + Overview
+ River Basins
+ Sea Areas
+ Enclosed Water Bodies
+ Groundwater


Major River Basins, Bays and Lakes in the Philippines


The Philippines is comprised of 7,110 islands with a land area of about 300,000 square kilometers. The country has a total of 96,000 square kilometers of agricultural land which is about 32% of the total land area. These lands are utilized for plantation of palay, corn, fruit, trees, root crops, vegetables, coconut, sugar cane and others.

July, 2004 census of Philippine population is 86.2 million and projected to reach 100 million in 14 years. The current population growth rate is 2.71% or 3 persons born per minute. Existing settlement patterns show that 48.05% of the population live in urban areas while the rest in rural areas.

There are about 85,000 manufacturing industries in the Philippines, with Metro Manila as the prime industrial region. Accounting for about 52% of the total manufacturing establishments. These establishments are classified into thirty (30) major industrial groups. Food manufacturing constitutes the biggest number of manufacturing establishments in the country.

With the rapid increase in population, urbanization, and industrialization reduce the quality of Philippine waters, especially in densely populated areas and regions of industrial and agricultural activities. The discharge of domestic and industrial wastewater and agricultural runoff has caused extensive pollution of the receiving water-bodies. This effluent is in the form of raw sewage, detergents, fertilizer, heavy metals, chemical products, oils, and even solid waste. Each of these pollutants has a different noxious effect that influences human livelihood and translates into economic costs.

“The adverse impact of water pollution costs the economy an estimated Php67 Billion annually (more than US$1.3 Billion). The government continues its fight against worsening water pollution by espousing and including among its priorities, environment policies, legislation, and decrees that address the growing need to control water pollution. In the last few years, the government has employed economic instruments such as pollution fines and environmental taxes.”

Access to clean and adequate water remains an acute seasonal problem in urban and coastal areas in the Philippines. The National Capital Region (Metro Manila), Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and Central Visayas are the four urban critical regions in terms of water quality and quantity. The Government’s monitoring data indicates:

  • Just over a third or 36 percent of the country’s river systems are classified as sources of public water supply:
  • Up to 58 percent of groundwater sampled is contaminated with coliform and needs treatment;
  • Approximately 31 percent of illness monitored for a five-year period were caused by water-borne sources; and
  • Many areas are experiencing a shortage of water supply during the dry season.

Nearly 2.2 million metric tons of of organic pollution are produced annually by domestic (48 percent), agricultural (37 percent), and industrial (15 percent) sectors. In the four water-critical regions, water pollution is dominated by domestic and industrial sources. Untreated wastewater affects health by spreading disease-causing bacteria and viruses, makes water unfit for drinking and recreational use, threatens biodiversity, and deteriorates overall quality of life. Known diseases caused by poor water include gastro-enteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, and more recently, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The number of water-related health outbreaks including deaths reported in newspapers is going up. However, awareness regarding the need for improved sanitation and water pollution control, reflected by the willingness-to-pay and connection to a sewerage system where they are easily available, is very low.

The annual economic losses caused by water pollution are estimated at Php67 Billion (US$1.3 billion). These include Php3 billion for health, Php17 billion for fisheries production, and Php47 for tourism. Losses due to environmental damage in pollution, the Philippines has many water-related laws, but their enforcement is weak and beset with problems that include: inadequate resources, poor database, and weak cooperation among different agencies and Local Government Units (LGUs). A Clean Water Act is now being deliberated in the Congress.

There is considerable under-investment by the Government in sanitation and sewerage, indicating a low spending priority, though ranked as a high priority in the Philippines Agenda 21 of 1996. Only seven percent of the country’s total population is connected to sewer systems and only a few households have acceptable effluent from on-site sanitation facilities. Estimates show that over a 10-year period, the country will need to invest Php250 billion (nearly US$ billion) in physical infrastructure. While LGUs recognize emerging water quality problems, they are constrained by high investment and operating costs, limited willingness-to-pay, restricted space available in the low-income urban areas where sewage is disposed of indiscriminately. Some of the Government budget, which is directed mostly towards water supply (97 percent of the total), needs to be diverted to sewerage and sanitation. Individuals are not yet aware and willing to pay for these services and Government incentives are justified in the short-term for the larger community-wide benefits.

Related Presentation:Programmes of MWSS and Concessionaries on Sewerage and Sanitation

Water Resources

The country is endowed with rich natural resources, including water, which are essential for the country’s economic development and in meeting its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Water resources of the Philippines include inland freshwater (rivers, lakes, and groundwater), and marine (bay, coastal, and oceanic waters). Overall, there is sufficient water but not enough in highly populated areas, especially during dry season.

Source: Philippines: Environment Monitor 2003

+ Overview
+ River Basins
+ Sea Areas
+ Enclosed Water Bodies
+ Groundwater