THE House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday approved the funding provision of the bill creating and establishing the Department of Water Resources (DWR).
The panel’s senior vice chairman, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, one of the principal authors of the bill, said the proposed budget for the DWR is P2 billion plus the yearly allocation for its attached agencies.
“Water is a right. All water belongs to the state, which shall govern its development and use for the people. Water is basic right,” Salceda said.
The bill will now be transmitted to the plenary for another round of deliberations.
Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said the 18th Congress will prioritize the passage of the DWR to also address the country’s problem on water shortage.
He said the passage of the measure for the new agency is a long-term solution to the water shortage.
Romualdez also said the country’s economic managers have long been pushing for the creation of a central authority on water resource management, which will become the DWR.
The unnumbered substitute bill seeks to ensure and accelerate universal access to water supply and sanitation services, while encouraging responsible private sector participation, fostering and prioritizing infrastructure and public works that adopt innovative solutions and international best practices to address the challenges of climate change.
The bill also declares all water and water treatment infrastructure projects as projects imbued with national interest.
The measure mandates the department to be the primary agency responsible for the comprehensive and integrated identification and mapping of all water resources, planning, policy formulation, and management of the ownership, appropriation, utilization, exploitation, development, sustainability and protection of water resources in the Philippines except fisheries or aquaculture
It also adopts the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) as the basic framework
It also empowers the department on policy making, planning, management and regulation of water resources; develop institutional arrangements with public water organizations and ensure coordination with all stakeholders for all water resource development, integration and management activities, including sanitation, flood control, flood risk management and drought risk management.
The bill allows the department to create when necessary, water resource subsidiaries, instrumentalities and entities to engage in water transmission, water distribution, waste water treatment and management, and sanitation in accordance with existing relevant laws.
It also allows the department to enter into contracts, joint venture agreements, or understanding, public-private partnerships, and memorandum of agreements, or understanding, either domestic or foreign relating to investment and financing water-related projects, under such terms and conditions as the department may deem proper and reasonable subject to existing laws.
The bill authorizes the secretary of the department to act as the chairman of the governing board of the agencies that are attached to the department.
Under the bill, attached agencies to the department include: the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).
It creates the Water Pollution Adjudication Board to assume the powers and functions of the National Pollution Control Commission with respect to the adjudication of water pollution cases.
The bill also creates the National Water Sector Policy Board to approve the National Water Resources Management Framework Plan.
The measure also creates the Water Regulatory Commission, which will assume the economic regulatory units and functions of the MWSS, NWRB, LWUA, SBMA, PEZA, and TIEZA.
It also requires the registration and licensing of all water supply and/or sanitation services
The bill also creates the Water Trust Fund to be utilized for water development, water sanitation and waste water treatment and management, and water sustainability programs and projects authorized under this proposal.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes