The municipality of San Jose, located on Carabao Island, the southernmost tip of the province of Romblon, has clear blue waters and powder-fine white sandy beaches. Despite this idyllic setting, 61.8% of island’s population – approximately 5,300 people - do not have access to clean, potable water. The only option for households to procure water for their daily needs is to travel by pumpboat at 5am from San Jose to the mainland municipality of Santa Fe, and return by the only boat available for the day, at 10am. This time does not include the hours of land travel from their homes to the seaside. Much of the villagers’ time is spent fetching water, leaving little time for education and livelihood. Compounding the situation, electricity is only available only from 4:00 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Factors such as these have contributed to economic hardship in the area – an indicator of which is that only 7% of the household heads have reached high school and 4% have any college education.
Through a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation (Atlanta) access to clean water will soon become a reality for 500 households in the municipality of San Jose – each of whom will be given their own rainwater cistern through the Peace & Equity Foundation, one of the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines’ partner NGOs. Last April 15, 2009, the Foundation attended the groundbreaking ceremonies beside the home of one of the beneficiary families. “The Foundation’s goal is to provide clean drinking water for the poor communities who have little or no access to water,” said Cecile Alcantara, President of the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines. Ms. Alcantara also stated that the rainwater harvesting projects under the banner of the Foundation’s “Rainwater for Life” program, are part of the worldwide commitment of Coca-Cola to responsible water stewardship, an area the Company feels it has the most significant opportunity to make a positive difference. “The ultimate goal of the Coca-Cola system shall be in returning every drop of water used in all of our business and manufacturing processes worldwide back to the environment through locally relevant projects,” Alcantara noted.
Each rainwater tank can store 3,000 liters of water, providing an average family of 5-6 persons with enough drinking water to last them a month without needing to refill the tank. Families will also be given bio-sand filters which will ensure the potability of collected rainwater.
In attendance during the ground breaking ceremony were Filipino Tandog, Mayor of San Jose, Vice-Mayor Ronnie Samson, Vice-Governor of Romblon Province Alicia Fetalvero, all of whom acknowledged the help of the Coca-Cola Foundation in providing a clean water source for the community and pledged to support the project through to completion. Moreover, Ms. Veronica Villavicencio, Executive of Director of the Peace & Equity Foundation stressed that great efforts would be undertaken to ensure the success of the project. Representing the beneficiaries of the project, Joey Gusmo, a native of the area, thanked the Foundation for their help in the project and spoke of how the project would benefit the people of San Jose.