With 61 percent of the country, including Metro Manila, reeling from the ill effects of El Niño, a lawmaker on Sunday urged barangays and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to tap the P1-billion “survival fund” to hoard rainwater.
Under Republic Act 10174, which reinforced the Climate Change Act of 2009, Makati City Rep. Luis N. Campos Jr. said barangays and NGO may avail themselves the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) so they can put up functional rainwater collectors in their communities.
According to Campos, the PSF never runs out of money because it is guaranteed a replenishable balance of at least P1 billion every year under the law.
“The PSF is a special annual fund in the National Treasury that provides subsidy to climate change adaptation and natural disaster resilience strategies, including the installation of practical rainwater harvesters,” Campos, a deputy minority leader, said.
He said the fund was established by law to supplement the yearly money set aside by national agencies, as well as local governments for programs and projects meant to build up the capability of communities to cope with harsh weather conditions.
“We all have to get used to stockpiling rainwater during the wet season so that everybody can have access to extra freshwater supplies during dry conditions,” Campos said.
The fund is administered by the PSF Board, composed of the heads of the Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Authority and the Philippine Commission on Women, along with the vice chairman of the Climate Change Commission, and one representative each from the scientific community, the business sector and nongovernment organizations.
Citing the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), Campos said El Niño conditions are likely to worsen this April, with 61 percent of the country enduring drought and the other 39 percent undergoing a dry spell.
He added that the national weather and climate authority also warned that “most dams and lakes that supply drinking, as well as irrigation water will likely experience way below normal rainfall conditions this April.”
Pagasa defines drought as three consecutive months of greater than 60 percent reduction from average rainfall, or five consecutive months of 21 to 60 percent reduction from average rainfall.
A dry spell means three consecutive months of 21 to 60 percent reduction from average rainfall, or two consecutive months of greater than 60 percent reduction from average rainfall.
Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy on Sunday reiterated her call to the Senate to approve on final reading Senate Bill (SB) 1754 which gives a long-awaited legal definition of a public utility to address ongoing water shortages, as well as brownouts, and telecoms service interruptions.
“The House did its part way back September 2017 when it sent House Bill (HB) 5828 to the Senate. The Senate’s committee report containing SB 1754 has not yet advanced to second reading and third reading since March 2018,” she said.
“It is our hope that with the ongoing water shortages, brownouts, and telecoms service interruptions, SB 1754 will gain urgency and momentum, so that when Congress resumes session after the May 13 elections, SB 1754 will be ready for House concurrence,” the House assistant majority leader said.
She explained that with SB 1754 already incorporating provisions of HB 5828, there would be no need for a bicameral conference committee.
Herrera-Dy said the bill could still be passed when session resumes on May 20.
The bill provides a clear definition of public utility that covers three sectors: distribution of electricity system, transmission of electricity system and water pipeline distribution system or sewerage pipeline system.
Herrera-Dy said public utility status for the water concessionaires will mean their ability to charge their customers can be reasonably limited.