We, the men and women participants of the People’s Forum on Water held on May 3, 2012 in Manila parallel to the Asian Development Bank’s 45 Annual Governor’s Meeting, representing farmers organizations, irrigators associations, rural women, urban poor communities, non-government organizations and advocates, declare our common conviction that water is a right of all people and that anything that hinders the full enjoyment of this right must be vigorously opposed.

 We affirm our collective position that water should remain part of the commons and we reject efforts to  commoditize water or place control over it in the hands of the private sector. We consequently ask government to reject policies and programs that promote the shift from communal, shared ownership or public management of water to private control and management of water resources and services.

We call on the Asian Development Bank and other international financial institutions to immediately halt loan programs and projects that are leading to the privatization of water resources and management. The strategy of private sector participation, public-private partnership and cost-recovery in water and irrigation should be thoroughly reviewed in the light of the massive failures of these policies to bring sufficient water to the poor population as well as to the increased burden imposed by such strategies on already indebted poor farmers.

We urge the current administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, a government  that has prided itself in taking the “straight path”, to abandon the path to ruin embraced by previous administrations and declare a policy of upholding food sovereignty centered on food self-sufficiency, which is the ability to produce enough food domestically to feed our population. The wisdom of pursuing this policy was emphasized several years ago when the world found itself in midst of a global food price crisis and countries that were heavily import-dependent were the worst affected.

We assert that agriculture plays a vital role in development. A healthy and productive agriculture sector can lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth that will lift millions out of poverty. To do this, however, the sector needs adequate support from government including infrastructure, credit, technology, among others. The state must provide the sector with the support services necessary to raise productivity and farmers’ incomes. In a country where the majority of the poor reside in the rural areas where farming is the primary source of livelihood, this should be seen as an direct investment in poverty reduction and genuinely inclusive economic growth.

We maintain that it is government’s responsibility to provide adequate financing for irrigation infrastructure and services as part and parcel of its broader responsibility to ensure food security and support the farmers who produce the food we eat. We demand that government fund the expansion of irrigation to cover the remainder of unirrigated irrigable lands in the country as part of its investment in our country’s food security. Irrigation is critical to increasing agricultural productivity and is one of the most cost-effective ways of spending limited resources to boost production.

We further make the following specific demands on the government, the ADB and other relevant actors:

  • Scrap plans to implement volumetric pricing schemes for irrigation water as these will put the vital irrigation services beyond the reach of small farmers.
  • Put an end to the continued conversion of irrigated lands
  • Bring down and standardize water rates for drinking water
  • Immediately stop widespread mining which causes displacement of indigenous peoples and local communities, poisons surrounding waters, and spawns a multitude of environmental hazards
  • Promote watershed management and protection that builds upon community knowledge and practices and puts control of  resources at the hands of  farmers and indigenous peoples groups especially women.
  • Repeal the EPIRA Law and undo the privatization of hydropower dams and water resources.

Finally, we commit ourselves to upholding the principle that water is a fundamental right and to the continuing struggle against the conspiracy to redefine water as a commodity.


People’s Forum on Water

Manila, 3 May 2012