DIWAGRIMPCO’s Journey in Delivering Potable Water to Ilog Residents

Ilog is a 2nd class municipality in Negros Occidental composed of 15 barangays. The area was named as such because of its proximity to the Ilog-Hilabangan river basin. In addition, Panay Gulf lies on its left side which makes fishing one of the residents’ main forms of livelihood.

Despite being surrounded by different water bodies, it is ironic that stable access to safe drinking water still remains a dream for many of Ilog residents. Only three out of the 15 barangays have household connection to potable water. Dancalan Ilog Waterworks and Agro-Industrial Multi-purpose Cooperative (DIWAGRIMPCO) remains the largest potable water supplier in the area.

The cooperative has been a producer, processor, and distributor of potable water since 1996. They started as a communal faucet system facility (Level II) and levelled up to providing individual house connections (Level III). From servicing 30 cooperative members initially, it is now able to cater 461 households or about 1,844 individuals in Barangay Dancalan, Calubang and Bocana. 25 of their members are micro-entrepreneurs who earn additional income from distributing water to households which are yet to have a connection of their own.

Edmund Turk T. Vail Sr. (General Manager, DIWAGRIMPCO) shared “May mga pumps naman yung ibang communities pero ang lumalabas na tubig ay maalat.” (Some communities have pumps but the discharge is salty.) In the Philippines, about 20 million Filipinos still depend on unsustainable water sources such as ground water pumps and wells.

Grace Vail, their accounting clerk, cited “Ang goal lang naman namin ay ma-improve ang pamumuhay ng mga tao mula sa (paggamit) ng well para at least maging standard rin ang pamumuhay nila sa pamamagitan ng mga faucet. Ayun bang hindi na sila mahihirapan (kumuha ng tubig). Previously, mahirap talaga ang tubig dito.” (Our sole goal is to uplift the quality of life of people here from using well to providing them with faucets in such a way that (fetching water) will not be a burden anymore. Previously, accessing water is really difficult in this area.).

Mark T. Villavicencio, overseer of the sugarcane block farming program also run by the cooperative, testified to how life changed for him personally with the installation of potable water connections in Dancalan:

“Nung mga 1980s, nag-iigib pa kami ng tubig sa may Crossing Bocana. Mga kalahating kilometro rin siguro yun mula sa bahay. Mayroon ding naglalako sa mga bahay dito na may dalang kariton ng tubig galing sa spring. Tatlong piso kada container. Tipid na tipid talaga pati sa pag-inom. Nung nagkaroon ng linya (ng tubig), yung oras ng pag-iigib namin, naigugugol na sa ibang bagay. Dumali talaga ang buhay kaya nagpapasalamat ang mga tao rito.” (In 1980s, we used to fetch water from Crossing Bocana. That is about 500 meters from our house. A vendor also sold containers of water gotten from a spring and delivered them in households using a cart. It cost around P 3.00 per container. We really control our water consumption even for drinking. When household connection became available, we were able to use the time we spent before in fetching water to carry out other tasks. Life became more convenient so the residents here are really thankful.”

Availability of clean water has great implications in the development of a community, particularly in the aspect of health. According to WHO, about 1.6 million individuals die around the world yearly due to diarrhoeal diseases because of lack of access to safe drinking water. 90% are children under 5 years old.

DIWAGRIMPCO acknowledges their role in promoting health of residents. By pursuing their target of giving connection to 1,200 households in 5 years, they envision to create an impact on preventing malnutrition, morbidity, and mortality due to water-borne diseases in their area. One of the on-going efforts related to this is the provision of free potable water of up to 10 cu.m per month for each of the three health centres covered by the system.  In the past, they were also able to give free toilet bowls with 2 bags of cement to their new members with no toilets through the help of different institutions.

In order to deliver service to more residents, DIWAGRIMPCO partnered with Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) in 2012 for the rehabilitation and expansion of its water system.

Since then, technical assistance and other forms of support have also been extended by PEF. More recently, PEF did water system checking, monitoring workshop, and capacity building needs assessment (CBNA) among board members and cooperative staff as part of its thrust to help social enterprise partners maintain efficient operations.