By Ruth Carlos Martinez, Rotary Club of Melbourne, RAWCS Chair, Water and Sanitation
In the last years, Rotary clubs in District 9800 completed significant life saving clean water infrastructures in remote needy areas in the Philippines; from the indigenous villages of the Aetas of Zambales, to Lubang Group of Islands- Mindoro (West Philippine Sea), provinces of Quezon, Masbate and Sorsogon, through to southern Surigao.
In early 2017, a site assessment in remote northern Kalinga, Cordillera ranges, Philippines was conducted by the former Rotary Club of Brighton Beach. In Kalinga, nature is at its best with rice field terraces, rivers, waterfalls and villages that weave around the countryside. The topography is rugged with up to an elevation of 8,200 ft. However, trekking deeper showed that there is a significant need for clean water and sanitation; specifically worst in Tabuk (population 103,816), province of Kalinga (population 202,052). Discussions with the Kalinga Provincial Health Office showed regular outbreaks of skin lesions in children, gastroenteritis, adults and children alike. Children with womenfolk do their share of 5am trips in the mountainous muddy roads to the stream to line up and collect water for homes. Amidst the poverty, UNESCO declared the Cordillera ranges a heritage site and proclaimed “the expression of sacred traditions and a delicate social balance, they have helped to create a landscape of great beauty that expresses the harmony between humankind and the environment.”
And due to its remoteness the prime utilities as Water and Sanitation re at its lowest, if any at all. Canada’s International Development Research Centre conducted a Community Based Monitoring System (CBMS) in 2010-2012 and noted that 12.4% households are “waterless”, while 32.5% had no access to sanitary toilet facilities. For instance, households in the municipality of Lubuagan, Barangay Mabongtot (98.9% households) and Barangay Tawang in Balbalan (97.9% households) have no access to safe water and 54.9% have no toilets. Sanitation and hygiene are at its lowest, without appropriate ablutions (toilets and wash stations). My visit to Barangay Dupag noted that sanitation ablutions are worst; one toilet for the whole village, which apparently is not uncommon. Desperate for a facility, I pointed towards the small village across the rivers’ hanging bridge, and was told there are no toilets there except a one hectare “free for all” field.
A project profile was prepared by Brighton Beach Rotary and alliances formed with the region’s Rotary Clubs, Tabuk local government, municipal health office, and local community leaders were invited to participate. Prior to the Brighton Beach Rotary closure in mid 2017, partial seed funding was provided and the project was transferred to the Rotary Club of Melbourne (RCM) to conduct a major Water and Sanitation project in Kalinga. Due to Tabuk’s villages rugged terrain and remoteness, RCM revisited in November 2017, and conducted a further study with local city engineers, government environment planners, and community leaders with schools, to prioritise the work.
On the 20th Feb 2018, a Rotary Foundation global grant was awarded to the Rotary Club of Melbourne, partnering with District 9500, Rotary Clubs of Tabuk, Meycauayan Uptown, Philippines, and the Rotary Club of Prahran. Target recipient sites are 5 - 8 barangays of Tabuk, Kalinga, where spring source development, water tanks, wells, reservoirs, cluster water station and toilet blocks for schools and the community will be constructed in the coming 12 months.
In the coming months, Melbourne Rotary will play a key role from site construction visits, sanitation and water conservation training, through to overall operational governance and procedures for sustainability in each of these barangays. This “Trickle of Hope” is not only the water cycle but is in unison with the life cycle.