One of the leading causes of illness in the Philippines is diarrhea.  It kills more than 27 Filipino children under 5 each day, and poor sanitation costs the Philippine economy nearly $2 billion each year.  I was reminded of these staggering figures as I journeyed six hours north of Manila to San Fernando City, La Union, to inaugurate a new sewtage treatment facility supported by USAID.

As a native of the San Fernando City area, I have seen its transformation from a quiet municipality to a booming metropolis that has become the seat of national government agencies in the region.  It is also a center of trade, commerce, and financial and educational institutions.

Unfortunately, rapid urbanization has taken a toll on the city’s sanitation management capacity.  To address this problem, USAID partnered with Rotary International and the city government to construct a septage treatment facility that will improve sanitation services by treating the waste from all the septic tanks in the city.

The facility is one of the five projects undertaken by USAID and Rotary International under the Water Alliance Program.  USAID and Rotary International together contributed a total of approximately $300,000 to cover both facility construction and technical assistance, while an additional $660,000 was put up by the city government.

The nearly 180,000 residents of San Fernando City will benefit from a cleaner, healthier environment as a result of this city-wide system.  The project is also an excellent demonstration of how partnerships between government and non-governmental organizations can yield positive results.  Collaborations such as this maximize the impact and sustainability of our programs in the communities that we serve.

USAID has partnered in the Philippines with local, provincial, and national governments; civil society; and the private sector to improve natural resource management. USAID has improved access to clean water and sanitation for 1.2 million Filipinos since 2005, and has protected and conserved over 1 million hectares of forest lands and coastal areas since 2004. We look forward to our continued work with our development partners as we strive to create a healthier environment conducive to sustained and inclusive growth.