Senator Grace Poe, conveying concerns to ensure clean water supplied to consumers, pressed Congress to frontload passage of an enabling law creating the proposed Department of Water, reminding that “the country’s water woes are too big to be met by fragmented responses.”
In a statement, Poe urged the private sector to work with the government in ensuring sustainable water management and access of the people to safe drinking water and sanitation.
“The irony is that although there is a horde of offices involved in water, there is no one agency that has overall responsibility,” Poe pointed out in a forum on Water Security Strategy organized by the Coca-Cola Company.
“Simply put: Our ‘tubig’ sector is too big. So before we all sink, we need nothing less than a Titanic reform to prevent a Titanic disaster,” the senator added.
The presiding chairperson of the Senate public services committee lamented that while a number of water-related agencies exist, “there is evident lack of leadership and holistic planning for the sector.”
Poe’s Senate Bill No. 102, to be known as the National Water Resource Management Act as soon as it is enacted pitches for the creation of a Department of Water Resources. The bill is currently pending at the committee level.
This new agency will be the primary policy planning, coordinating, and implementing entity responsible for the comprehensive and integrated development and management of water resources in the Philippines, said Poe.
“Undoubtedly, the impact of having access to clean water is life-changing. But who decides which communities will receive this blessing? Consequently, one area that needs to be immediately addressed is our fragmented institutional, regulatory, and management framework,” the senator stressed.
She conveyed concerns that “the proposed department is urgent and needed as water has become a critical resource all over the world. This calls for investments in infrastructure, technology and capacity building to meet the increasingly growing needs of the population.”
“Lamentably,” Poe deplored that in the Philippines, “two out of every 10 families do not have access to an improved source of drinking water. Two out of 10 families also do not have access to any sanitation facility. And three out of 10 Filipino families do not have access to a hand-washing facility.”
Based on a study of the National Economic and Development Authority, the water availability per person in the country also amounted to 1,553 m3 (cubic meters) per year.
She described this as “worrisome because 1,553 m3/year falls below the international ‘water stress’ threshold of 1,700m3/year and approaches the ‘water scarcity’ threshold of 1,000 m3/year.”
“A regulatory authority is necessary to ensure efficient allocation of this scarce resource. In addition to this important task, a regulator is also needed to determine just rates for water services,” she said.
Poe said that the government alone couldn’t accomplish developing the water sector. Her bill seeks to enable the private sector, civil society and community-based organizations to be involved in the delivery of water supply, sanitation, and septage services to end-users. “Our proposed law could be a game-changer in the area of water stewardship,” she said.
“Water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. Let us work together to lift the floodgates of bureaucracy, attain sustainable consumption and production, and ensure that clean water flows to every household like a mighty stream,” Poe added.