For an archipelago and a country that’s known to be rich in bodies of water, the Philippines still faces a water crisis due to many factors. According to UNICEF, access to basic water services in the country remains inequitable and one in 10 Filipinos still lacks access to improved water sources.
This used to be the reality of residents in Barangay Kulasi, a small community and the poorest among 10 barangays in the municipality of Sumilao in Bukidnon, Northern Mindanao. For around 20 years, easy and convenient water access was only a dream for their neighborhood, according to Barangay Chairman Gilbert Mamatan.
In order to acquire water for daily use, Mamatan recounted how the residents had to walk kilometers everyday to reach a small stream, where they would dig holes around the source to get water for drinking, cooking, taking a bath, and other domestic uses.
“Araw-araw talaga. Minsan kapag tag-init, natutuyo ang source namin. Nakapila ‘yung mga tao kung kailan sila makakaigib. Ganun talaga ang kahirapan namin na naranasan dito,” Mamatan said.
(“[We collect water] every day. Sometimes during the dry season, our water source dries up. The people line up just to be able to get water. That’s how difficult our experience is.”)
The situation started to improve when Barangay Kulasi, through the collaborative efforts of various government units, was able to establish a basic water facility in 2017. The residents then had better water access but the problem of distance and distribution remained.
Barangay residents were only able to access one communal faucet with the water coming from a source in Sitio Bacolod, Lupiagan through a 10-km pipe to a reservoir located at the back of the Kulasi Elementary School. This communal faucet was almost a kilometer away from the barangay center.
“Naglalakad ‘yung iba ng almost one kilometer, ‘yung iba half kilometer, depende sa layo ng kanilang bahay sa kinalalagyan ng Level 1 namin,” Mamatan said.
(“Others walk almost a kilometer, some half a kilometer, depending on the distance of their houses to the location of the Level 1 [community faucet].”
“Laking pasasalamat po namin na umabot na ang tubig sa barangay namin. Sabi ng mga tao, simple lang naman ang tubig natin, bakit hindi tayo gumawa ng paraan para mas mailapit pa sa mga bahay ng mga residente ng Barangay Kulasi?” he added.
(“We were really grateful water reached our barangay. But the people needed a way to get the water closer to the residents of Barangay Kulasi.”)
In 2018, Barangay Kulasi was chosen as the pilot barangay for the Zero Extreme Poverty program of the Del Monte Foundation Inc. This gave Mamatan and his constituents the chance to air their problem on water access. The initiative led the small community to Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, the social investment arm of Coca-Cola, and paved the way for the construction of a Level 2 water supply system closer to their homes.
Mamatan said that the grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines for their barangay’s Level 2 water source was an answered prayer. Currently, there are 25 communal faucets that cater to 607 residents of the barangay who no longer have to spend tedious hours just to get clean water. The project also provided access to potable water to Kulasi Elementary School, and other communities including the barangay hall, health center, and day care center. Seven families also returned to Barangay Kulasi because of the improved water system.
The Foundation also provided training and education on proper water stewardship to ensure the long-term impacts of the initiative.
Mamatan said that this helped the residents save the money they used to allocate to pay people to fetch water. His family’s monthly budget of PHP 500 for this can now be spent on food and other basic necessities. Apart from this, they also don’t have to worry about sanitation and hygiene anymore with the clean and potable water from the Level 2 water source. This significantly resulted in reduction in water-borne diseases among children, and in doctor consultations for ailments.
“Importante talaga ‘yung tubig dahil doon nakasalalay din ang seguridad ng health ng tao,” he said.
(“Water is really important because the health and safety of people depends on it.”)
Based on a survey conducted by Del Monte Foundation in January 2021, extreme poverty in Brgy. Kulasi has now been completely eradicated. Based on the #ZEP2030 indicators, the previously-identified eleven (11) extremely poor families have exhibited improved living conditions. All of these were made possible by the construction of the Level 2 Water System.
He added that they’re now aiming to have a Level 3 water system and to give their farmers access to irrigated water. They’re now taking the necessary steps towards these goals with hearts filled with gratitude and flowing with hope because of the outcomes of a worthwhile collaboration between Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, Del Monte Foundation, local government of Sumilao, Bukidnon, and Barangay Council of Kulasi.
With sustainability at the core of their business, Coca-Cola Philippines will continue giving back every drop of water they use in the manufacture of their beverages to local communities. To date, Coca-Cola’s Agos Program has reached 290,000 Filipinos in 270 underserved communities in the country.
Read more about Coca-Cola’s water stewardship efforts and community stories at https://www.coca-colafoundation.ph/projects/water-stewardship/