House forms TWG to unify 35 bills on creation of water resources department

The House Committee on Reorganization and House Committee on Public Works on Monday created a technical working group (TWG) for the drafting of a substitute bill to the 35 bills proposing the creation of the Department of Water Resources.

The two committees named House Committee Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda as the chairman of the TWG.

Pending issues for the TWG to resolve include the attachment of the National Irrigation Administration to the proposed department, inclusion of sewage systems under the jurisdiction of the department, and the inclusion of flood control planning in the department’s functions.

Salceda was also the chairperson of the TWG for the bill during the 18th Congress.

Salceda explained the measures as “imitating the model for energy regulation in the country, where you have NEA [National Electrification Administration] for missionary connection, ERC [Energy Regulatory Commission] for rate regulation, Napocor [National Power Corporation] for generation, all under DOE [Department of Energy] for policy-setting and direction.”

“Under the current system for water, you don’t know where to go when you want to build a dam. Resource planning and management is disjointed. Disjointed governance means while water potential abounds, reliable, safe, and efficient delivery of potable water in the Philippines remains highly unequal,” Salceda pointed out.

Salceda estimated that only 43 percent of the country’s population has access to level 3 water supply, even as the country only uses 21 percent of its total potential water supply.

“We generate some 2200 mm of annual rainfall, nearly thrice what God gives China. So, we don’t have a water scarcity issue. We have a water management issue,” he explained.

Salceda also pointed out the highly unequal access to water, especially across income classes.

“91 percent of population has access to basic water services, but across regions, access ranges between 62 percent to 100 percent. 99 percent of top 20 percent of households have basic water services, while only 80 percent of bottom 20 percent have access,” Salceda said.

Salceda added, “Wide inconsistency between the access to water of urban areas [61 percent] and rural areas [25 percent]. Rural areas’ access tends to be run by local water districts.”

Salceda described the proposed department as the “Apex body for the water sector responsible for 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.”

The bill, Salceda said, aims “to ensure and accelerate universal access to water supply and sanitation services, to encourage 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; and to declare all water and water treatment infrastructure projects as projects imbued with national interest.”


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