2018News

Business group urges gov’t to appoint water czar

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat, September 13 2018; Manila Bulletin

https://business.mb.com.ph/2018/09/13/business-group-urges-govt-to-appoint-water-czar/

Image Credit to Manila Bulletin

Arangkada, an advocacy among foreign chamber in the country, yesterday urged for the appointment of a “water czar” to improve the management of water resources and governance of the water sector.

ARANGKADA

The 7th Arangkada Forum yesterday released three policy briefs on three sectors – water, roads and rails, and the logistic – for priority attention by the Duterte administration, which already bid out roughly 44,000 BBB projects in the past two years.

The Water Policy Brief noted, “It has long been recognized that governance in the water sector is fragmented and uncoordinated. The lack of leadership, accountability, and strategic direction are often cited as the core issues behind the country’s poor state of water resources.”

Then President PNoy Aquino issued Executive Order 62 appointing then Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio L. Singson as “water czar.”

In the absence of clear leadership in this sector, the foreign business group, said it would serve the Executive to appoint a ‘Water Czar’ who will shepherd various reform efforts prior to the passage of a Water Sector Reform Law. The “Water Czar” should be at the cabinet level, have the full blessing of the President, provided resources to resources and 100 percent devoted to the water sector reform effort.

“Without this strong interim leadership, there is a good chance any reform effort for the sector will falter,” the policy brief warned as it urged for the announcement of the appointment of the “Water Czar” during the planned Philippine Water Summit on November 21 this year.

The policy brief on Roads and Rails listed a total of 18 policy recommendations and identified major projects that the Duterte administration “must move ahead quickly” as it noted that past administrations moved “much too slowly” bequeathing a ground transportation crisis in Manila, Cebu, and other major cities. Among its recommendations include the issuance and implement the comprehensive the National Transport System Master Plan, which was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority Board in September 2017.

The policy brief also highlighted the need for continuity of projects and policies between administrations stressing that completion of major projects transcends administrations.

On shipping, the policy brief noted of governance and conflict of interest issues on seaports that called for regulatory changes.

For instance, the brief said that that Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) under the Department of Transportation is the main agency responsible for the operation, development and regulation of all public ports as well as regulation of private ports.

The PPA Charter mandate for the authority a share of at least 10 percent from cargo handling revenue it collects from its economically viable ports. PPA also regulates and approves tariffs, rate increases in port charges, and cargo handling rates for public and private ports.

“These conflicting roles potentially create a conflict of interest and make the PPA susceptible to possible rent-seeking practices since it receives more revenue when it raises cargo handling rates,” the brief stated.

It cited the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight in a 2006 report concluded that the PPA has a conflict of interest as it benefits from its own regulation. As a regulator, the PPA reviews and approves petitions for rate increases submitted by cargo handling operators. In most cases, these petitions are approved. The PPA manages around 115 ports nationwide.

The same conflict of interest also hounds the shipping industry, which is under the Maritime Industry Authority, which has the power to issue a certificate of public conveyance to shipping companies to operate specific routes. Marina is also responsible for fixing the rates of passenger fares and cargo freight but only for third class passenger fares and specific non-containerized basic commodities.

Marina also lacks the power to regulate cases where foreign shippers engage in unfair trade practices with domestic shippers.

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