MANILA -- A coalition from the private sector, business groups, non-government organizations (NGOs), and civil society groups has called on the government to address the looming water shortage.

The call was made following a report from the weather bureau that the country will experience El Niño phenomenon from March to June this year.

In a press conference Thursday, Movement for Security (MWS) chairman Ernesto Ordoñez said there is a need to ensure water security immediately "because we have a serious global water crisis today."

Ordoñez cited the World Economic Forum (WEF) which has listed water as the largest global risk in terms of potential impact in the next decade, noting water demand is expected to outstrip supply by 40 percent.

In the Philippines, which is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, WEF said the situation is more critical.

It noted more than 50 persons die every day due to water-related diseases and nine million have no access to safe water.

Ordoñez said major challenges of inadequate water, poor water quality, floods, and droughts are needed to be addressed.

"Our mission is to increase and expand our water initiatives, promote coordination and synergy within the private sector, and fully support (the) government in their programs to achieve water security," he said.

He noted that damaging floods and droughts have resulted to the destruction of some 5.7 million hectares of forests and 300,000 hectares of mangroves.

Ordoñez also underscored the need to monitor the 18 major water basins in the country which were identified by the government by using the integrated water resource management scheme.

"We are sounding the alarm for action today. Our people will suffer greatly if we do not address the water crisis. We must now unite among ourselves and work with the government with a high sense of urgency to attain our elusive, important, and long-neglected water security," he added. (PNA)