WESTERN BICUTAN, PHILIPPINES--Isabel Mercader, President of TUPREAI, is happy to see her barangay's water problem get better a step at a time.
TUPREAI stands for the Technological University of the Philippines Residents Association Inc., a community of over 300 families who are informal settlers in idle land belonging to the Technological University of the Philippines in Taguig City.
Years back, TUPREAI members brought their water from a deep well located a kilometer away, at Php 40 per cubic meter. The water, which came in plastic pails and other containers that residents lined up twice a day for, cost each family 30-50 pesos a day, or 900-1,500 pesos a month.
In 2006, Manila Water, a water and wastewater service provider, offered them direct water connections but at Php 7,000 per connection, it was beyond what the community could afford.
"We wanted the connection," Isabel explains, "but we could not afford it. So we looked for a sponsor."
Enter the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) facility, a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank.
In 2007, GPOBA provided Manila Water a grant of $2.8 million to expand its “Tubig Para sa Barangay” (TPSB) or Water for the Poor program in 45 urban poor communities.
The GPOBA grant allowed Manila Water to expand its existing program and install water service connections to more customers from low-income communities at very affordable installment rates.
TUPREAI, whose residents are low-income families living in a small unserved community located in a larger service area already being served by Manila Water, qualified for the GPOBA funding. Every family just needed to secure a barangay clearance attesting that they lived below the poverty line.
After dialogues with the community where issues and concerns were addressed, Manila Water laid the pipes, installed the water meters, and faucets in every home.
Today, Isabel’s community has clean potable water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although there are still no flush toilets, sanitation and hygiene have improved with enough water to pour into toilet bowls. The children are clean and healthy, with the danger of water-borne diseases reduced drastically.
The best part is, households pay an average of only Php 165 a month, of which Php 95 (over three years) goes towards the cost of the water meter. The rest pays for the water they use.
“The World Bank sponsored us,” gushes Isabel. “Now the children take a bath everyday.”
Eden Gargallano, a board member of TUPREAI, says the savings on water costs are most welcome in a community made up of families of minimum wage earners such as construction workers, laundry women, and food vendors. "There are no office workers here,” she says.
“Now we are able to buy what we want, not just what we need—more food, nice clothes. And we are able to improve our homes. Many have complete appliances.”
Catherine Mercado, another board member of TUPREAI, values the bonding time with her children that is now possible because she doesn’t have to line up for water. “I now take the children to school and pick them up after school.” There is also more peace in the community, without the irritations that used to come up among neighbors in the water lines.
Today, there are 304 water service connections (some families share a connection) in the area serving 330 families, at an average pressure of 10 to 15 psi per household.
The cost of water is P9.47 per cubic meter.
As of December 2009, Manila Water has completed 45 TPSB-GPOBA projects benefitting 11,000 families in Mandaluyong, Pasig, Marikina, Taguig, and some parts of Rizal province.
Carla May Beriña-Kim, head of Manila Water’s sustainable development unit, points out that Manila Water’s TPSB project pre-dates the GBPOA-funded projects. “Manila Water has always put emphasis on integrating corporate social responsibility initiatives into its business model,” she says.
In fact, it has installed water connections servicing over 1.6 million people in low-income communities in its concession area.
The World Bank’s Operations Officer for Sanitation Rey Ancheta adds, “Manila Water’s TPSB project’s goal of uplifting the lives of poor families by providing them with 24-hours supply of clean, potable and affordable water is consistent with the goal of the GPOBA facility of the World Bank to increase access to basic infrastructure and social services to the poor in developing countries."