Water has become a luxury here that residents of the province envy the cattle owned by ranchers since they enjoy more the availability of the earth’s most precious liquid.
Edgar Ramos, 58, single, who lives with his 95-year-old mother Caridad, said water is the most expensive basic need in this province that is experiencing water shortage.
Ramos said they long for politicians who could address water scarcity that had been affecting their province since time immemorial.
“We are buying four containers of water every day at Php5 each or Php20 from water peddlers, or a total of Php600 monthly, for washing and bathing alone. For our drinking water, we are spending Php1,200 for filtered water from refilling stations,” he said.
The bachelor said availability of water in their faucets is one of the critical issues that they are raising to politicians -- to prioritize the need to provide clean drinking water to waterless communities here to prevent water-borne diseases.
Ramos said water deficiency in this province is even aggravated by the extreme climate condition, or the El Niño phenomenon, that is now prevailing all over the country.
The Masbate Mobo Water District, the local water supplier, cannot meet the water requirement of the communities here.
Thus, the proliferation of water peddlers.
Lani Alba -- 68, widow, homeless and mother of 22-year-old Mylene – has a down syndrome but has been peddling water for 18 years now to the waterless village of Bagumbayan, a community here with sanitation problem as defecation is done through the sea.
Alba took over the peddling of water after the demise of her husband, Wilfredo, 18 years ago as their source of living.
She is earning Php100 to Php200 a day from vending water, enough to feed their hungry stomachs and survive a daily existence.
Every day, she pushes a cart made of steel bars packed with water containers from national highway down to the slum areas of Bagumbayan, even with her frail body.
But before she can sell water, Alba commissions her younger brother, Arturo, to buy water from a private owner of deep well or pumping station at Php3 per container or Php300 for 100 water containers.
But water commodity taken from these private deep wells or pumping station facilities are not checked by health authorities if their water is fit for human consumption
Daily, Alba hits the street with her cart passing through a crisscrossing passageway heading to the slum areas of Barangay Bagumbayan.
Of course, she is not alone in the local water peddling trade as the scarcity of fresh water supply confronting Masbate since for a long time has created a permanent source of income for about a thousand of her peers pushing container-laden improvised carts.
Placer town Mayor Jay Lanete, vice gubernatorial candidate and running mate of her mother-governor, Rizalina, admitted that horses of the ranchers had the luxury of water supply than the people of Masbate in the past.
By the way, the mayor lost to Kay Revil in the race while his mother lost to come-backing governor Antonio Kho.
He said that upon her mother’s assumption as governor of Masbate, she was able to bring down poverty, provide water supply and address the sanitation problem.
“It used to be 90 percent of the people in Placer without access to clean and potable water. But with my mom on the helm, she provided water and bring down by 35 percent those families without access to potable supply of water,” he said.
Incumbent Gov. Homer Revil also said that upon his assumption into office as acting governor last year, after governor Lanete was put behind bars due to plunder case, he provided more water systems from the 20-percent development fund of the province to provide clean and potable water and address sanitation problem affecting their province.
“One of the indicators of poverty is lack of clean water and poor sanitation. As soon as water and sanitation problems are given special preference we will be out of poverty because the worst scenario of democracy is poverty,” Revil said.
Revil ran for the congressional post in the 2rd District under the Liberal Party but lost to reelectionist Olga Kho of PDP Laban.
The towns of Cataingan, Cawayan, Mandaon, Milagros, Placer and Uson are among the 115 local government units nationwide identified by the National Anti-poverty Commission (NAPC), based on the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction, to receive Php10-million worth of water system project each, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development regional office here.
The project is the flagship program of the Aquino administration anchored on Millennium Development Goal No. 7 to halve the population without access to safe and potable water and is included in the Philippine Water Sector Roadmap.
The project is targeting LGUs identified and ranked based on thematic concerns as poorest LGU, with high incidence of water lack and poverty incidence.
The Department of Health-Bicol is also implementing the Salintubig project worth Php68 million in Masbate province.
Under the project, water supply facilities will be constructed for the waterless towns of Placer, Cawayan, Mandaon, Cataingan, Uson, Milagros, Claveria, and San Jacinto.
Water and sanitation problem in Masbate is among the poverty indicators being considered by the National Statistical Coordination Board.
It has remained a challenging situation, according to health officials in Bicol.
Potable water shortage in Masbate City and neighboring towns compel hundreds of thousands residents to source water from artesian wells in the uplands or deep wells that are just near the sewerage system of Masbate City.
Though the province is surrounded by water unfortunately, the island-province has limited access to safe drinking water sources and sanitation facilities.
The island-province of Masbate is one of the poorest provinces in the country wherein 60 to 65 percent of the population is considered poor.
Noemi Bron, DOH-Bicol public information officer, said 91 percent of Bicolanos have access to safe drinking water but Masbate province has the lowest access to potable water on the average, regionwide.
Bron said the National Target for Access to Improve water supply is 87 percent for households with access to improved safe water supply for category level I, level II and level III. (By Rhaydz B. Barcia PNA)