MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Coca-Cola recognizes the importance of safe water for hand hygiene in underserved communities especially in a pandemic. Through the beverage company’s social investment arm in the country, Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines Inc. (CCFPI), they have provided handwashing facilities and information materials in several locations in the country.
CCFPI, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the local governments of Cagayan De Oro City and Tagbilaran City, has funded the installation of 31 handwashing facilities in 29 sites in March. These locations include high-traffic areas such as public markets, parks and transport terminals.
“We, at Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, are one with our partners in valuing water as a very important resource in our community. Now more than ever, our commitment to safe water access, particularly handwashing facilities in the country has grown stronger. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to promote awareness on proper hand hygiene for all,” said Cecile Alcantara, CCFPI President.
Despite being an archipelago, water access in the country remains inequitable with 2017 data from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) showing that access to at least basic water services in the regions ranges from 62% to 100%. Some 20 million Filipinos are also still lacking access to basic sanitation facilities. Poor sanitation including lack of soap and water for handwashing puts people’s health at risk for diseases like diarrhea, COVID-19, and other diseases.
“Water and sanitation measures are key to poverty reduction, economic growth, and environmental sustainability,” said Serge Andal Jr., USAID/SURGE Chief of Party explaining the importance of having clean water access for all.
A total of 141 handwashing stations nationwide in high traffic public areas have also been put in place by Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, local bottler CCBPI, and partners, USAID and Water & Life Philippines. Working closely with local government, the organizations aim to promote proper handwashing, hygiene and sanitation in communities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.
Meanwhile, The Coca-Cola Foundation (global) has also provided a grant to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for safe water access to at least 45,000 internally displaced persons in communities in Mindanao.
Securing water resource through watershed programs
While providing access to water is important, it is equally important that watersheds are protected, as they are the source of water used in critical services including clean drinking water and water for agricultural processes, among many others.
Recognizing the need to secure water for communities, Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding with USAID and MUAD-Negros, a local federation of farming groups, to protect and rehabilitate Bago and Malogo watersheds in Negros Occidental.
These watersheds provide water to 12 municipalities and cities inhabited by more than 186,000 individuals.
The watershed program, spanning four years from January 2021 to December 2024, will work with 19 barangay organizations in the region to rehabilitate the natural springs. It will also involve communities and households by giving them proper education, incentives, and an enabling environment so they can become effective watershed managers. A total of 1,000 upland farmers, 490 of whom are women, are expected to gain sustainable livelihoods from the program.
A similar project, which started in 2016, is the rehabilitation of Ipo Watershed in Bulacan which aims to help conserve and reforest 150-hectares of the 263-hectare Sapang Munti Micro Watershed working closely with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines). The Coca-Cola Foundation (global) has provided additional grant support to the project, which is on its way to replenishing over one million liters per day ensuring that residents within the watershed and Metro Manila will have a more sustainable water supply.
“These programs are a testament of how the Coca-Cola system in the Philippines —from the company, to the local foundation, as well as our local bottler—stays true to our commitment to water stewardship. We take it as a great responsibility to respect and protect our water resources. Through our programs, we gave back to communities and nature an estimated 132% of the water used in beverages. We hope to continue to empower and uplift the lives of more people and their community while protecting the environment,” said Antonio “Tony” Del Rosario, President Coca-Cola Philippines and VP Franchise Operations East (PH, VN, KH).
Knowing that there is more work to be done, Coca-Cola Philippines shall continue to reach out to water-stressed communities to ensure access to clean safe water to achieve its vision of being better for people, better for communities, and better for the environment.