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Humanitarian aid project provides clean water for underprivileged in Manila

CNA | 17 September 2019


MANILA: The lively streets of Baseco can be dizzying to the unfamiliar eyes. An urban poor village in Manila that was once a dockyard, it is now an urban settlement where most people work as unskilled labourers and residents are of different religious backgrounds.

But in Manila's underprivileged communities like Baseco, poor urban planning has led to water pipes being exposed or even submerged in stagnant water, and at risk of contamination. The booming population in the community also exacerbated the situation. In order to provide clean water for Baseco residents, a sustainable development service project was launched on Friday (Sep 13) to culminate a 10-day interfaith training programme for 20 humanitarians from across Southeast Asia called Faiths@Work. The project is funded by the Temasek Foundation. The charity event came a day after Singapore President Halimah Yacob concluded her five-day visit to the Philippines, where she said collaboration between private and public sectors in Singapore and the Philippines is ultimately about raising the quality of life in the region.

A 2002 census by the city government of Manila recorded the number of families in Baseco at more than 6,000. But unofficial estimates from community organisers reveal that the figure has now tripled. One Baseco resident Nelle Perez, 63, found her grandchild suffering from diarrhoea when he bought chilled beverages sold in the community, where tap water is not clean enough for drinking. "He bought a sweet chilled beverage where a vendor didn't use mineral water. He got diarrhoea ," Ms Perez told CNA. She was one of the dozens of Baseco residents who attended the launch of the water treatment system on Friday. The system provides a three-phase filter for clean drinking water that is more affordable than what is sold in the village's existing water refilling stations. It is also safer, cleaner and more sustainable, as it uses a superflux ceramic filter that only needs replacing every 10 years. The system additionally has a carbon filter to treat the smell of water, and a UV filter to get rid of viruses, without which the risk of water-borne diseases is higher. At home, Ms Perez is the only one looking after her four grandchildren as their mother -like millions of Filipinos - is working overseas. Their family moved to Baseco as they could no longer afford rent at a nearby village. She has a lot on her plate. But cleaner, safer and more affordable drinking water is one worry that is now out of her mind. Organisers said the water treatment system is expected to benefit 300 households with the project expected to be expanded. INTERFAITH DIALOGUE Baseco was the venue where the pioneer Faiths@Work program, which involved 10 days of disaster management training, was concluded. The programme included risk identification, mitigation and response for 20 interfaith humanitarians across Southeast Asia. Around 30 per cent of Baseco residents are Muslims, 50 per cent are Roman Catholics and 20 per cent belong to various Christian denominations, said Jeorgie Tenolete, president of the community organisation Kabalikat, who works closely with the local community. Members of the new Faiths@Work network will be appointed as primary liaison officers for Singapore-based NGO Humanity Matters in the event of future disasters in Southeast Asia. They are also expected to facilitate the gathering of ground information and help ensure early access and aid to affected locations. "We hope that through this they will understand each other better - different faith, different religion, different country. And then they can also become a resource person in their own country whenever there's a disaster," Mr Lim Hock Chuan, chief executive of Temasek Foundation Connects, told CNA. The project's culmination also saw the unveiling of the Centre for Cohesion and Resilience in Baseco that aims to provide a safe community space for the exchange of interfaith matters and training on disaster management. The centre is funded by Singapore-based NGO Humanity Matters and was built in a container with less risk of collapse in the event of typhoons or earthquakes. Baseco is along the so-called Manila Trench, at risk of a potential earthquake as powerful as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake that caused a series of tsunamis and claimed over 200,000 lives in 14 countries.

At the launch of the centre, a panel of religious experts discussed how various religions exhort followers to act upon climate change. Brother Michael Broughton of the Lasallian Leadership Formation and Accompaniment said religion is ultimately about helping the least, the last and the lost. "God has placed creation under the stewardship of men, so people are supposed to take care of the earth. It's a gift to be cherished, used but used responsibly," he said. "Many disasters are natural and beyond our control. But today, we are more alarmed that we can affect natural disasters as well. There are man-made disasters," he added.


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