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Urgent: Department of Water Resources (2)

Last week’s column was on the creation of a Department of Water Resources (DWR), as proposed by concerned groups and environment experts (former environment secretary Elisea Gozun among them) that would address the water crisis in NCR. Pending the law creating the DWR, an executive order (EO) is being proposed.

“Functional integration” is the catch phrase in the proposal for a DWR or an EO at least. “Ideally, the management of water resources should fall under one agency with broad mandates and extensive field implementation units. In the absence of a law creating such an agency, the (draft) executive order provides that existing offices/agencies performing water-related functions be ‘functionally integrated’ under the National Water Resources Council.”

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Four of the eight objectives for the creation of DWR:

To strengthen and coordinate policy-making and planning for flood management, integrated with storm water drainage, urban drainage and appropriate retention or retarding basins in order to plan for, prevent and minimize the detrimental and catastrophic effects of flooding and intense and longer droughts;

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To encourage and enable more private sector participation in the continued growth and development of the water sector, e.g. the provision of safe water supply and sewerage/septage services;

To promote and adopt water demand management as a national policy to ensure that water is optimized, that water efficiency and water conservation become a way of life, that the recycling and reuse of water and treated wastewater are widely practiced, that water is properly priced to encourage efficient use and conservation and that rainwater, floodwaters and runoffs are captured/harvested and stored for future use;

To ensure the effective implementation of Presidential Decree No. 1067, known as The Water Code of the Philippines, and Republic Act No. 9275, known as the Clean Water Act of the Philippines.

Feedback from reader Cesar E. Yniguez, who had worked in the water sector for more than 40 years:

“From what I understand, the proposal will place under DWR such functions as water supply, flood control, irrigation, among others. It will place under one department the development and operations of water utilities/water districts, irrigation systems and MPWH flood control and probably all the dam operations of the National Irrigation Authority and NAPOCOR nationwide. Will DWR do all these better and more focused than all these 30 agencies under the sector? Who will set the priorities for the various programs within such department?

“If what we need is an integrated approach to water resources development and management, strengthening NWRB and transforming it into a national water management council as proposed should be enough.

“The current water shortage in Metro Manila is a regulatory failure. The real cause of the shortage, with water supply not being able to meet the demand, is MWSS’s failure to develop raw water sources which is their responsibility under the concession agreement. Manila Water and Maynilad are tasked to treat and distribute efficiently and effectively the raw water that MWSS will provide—24 hours supply, 100-percent coverage, affordable and good water quality, sufficient pressure (7-14 psi or more), etc. The concessionaires have done this…

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“What can compel MWSS to do their responsibility under the concession agreement (CA)? Why can they not be sanctioned or penalized? Why can the MWSS Regulatory Office, which is supposed to regulate the agreement between MWSS (as the utility and owner of Metro Manila’s water supply system) and Manila Water and Maynilad (tasked with water treatment and distribution), not do this? It is because MWSS-RO is under the MWSS Board of Trustees. Can they penalize their boss?

“How can the MWSS-RO regulate when they are under the first party to the agreement (MWSS) that they are supposed to regulate? This is an anomalous situation which the congressional hearings should address. Get an independent water supply regulator similar to MWSS-RO to cover not just the Manila water supply concession but the proliferating joint venture agreements between water utilities/water districts outside Metro Manila and the private sector (Manila Water, Maynilad, Prime Water, etc.)…

“Forget about sources from nearby water districts as proposed by the LWUA administrators (how do you pipe in the water from the provinces to Metro Manila?), desalination as suggested by a newly minted senator (does he know the cost and power requirements?) and giving the concession back to the government (have they not bungled it enough—that was the reason for privatization in 1997). If these are what you hear in the congressional hearings, it is just a waste of people’s money.”

Send feedback to [email protected]

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