By Virgil Lopez, March 21 2019; GMA News

Image Credit to Manila Bulletin

The executive branch is pushing for the creation of two agencies to address the country’s water supply issues, a Malacañang official said Thursday.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government would propose to the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) the passage in Congress of bills creating a water agency focused on economic and financial regulation and another responsible for policy formulation and resource regulation.

“One of the proposed agencies that will be formed will act as the apex body for the water resources sector. This agency will consolidate and reconcile water-related policy, planning, and programming mandates of the different agencies involved in water resource management. It will likewise ensure the efficient allocation of water resources across sectors,” he said.

Nograles said the second body will be an “independent and quasi-judicial body for water supply and sanitation” which will ensure quality performance of water concessionaires. It will also ensure transparency and predictability in economic regulation of water service providers.

He said the draft bills have already been prepared.

As a consultative and advisory body, the LEDAC helps the President integrate his legislative agenda with Congress. Duterte has convened the advisory body at least twice during his term.

The Palace official’s statement came a day after Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV moved for the establishment of a Department of Water, Irrigation, Sewage and Sanitation Resource Management, which would, among other duties, “manage and protect the country’s water resources.”

Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier thumbed down a similar suggestion by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

Nograles also said an inter-agency meeting on water security was held at the Department of National Defense (DND) in Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday where the agencies agreed to submit to the President a draft executive order strengthening the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) and addressing the fragmentation of the water sector.

He said the agencies present in the meeting recognized that having at least 30 agencies currently involved in water resources management was “problematic.”

“For example, there are four agencies involved in resource assessment, four involved in policy, seven in water supply, four in sanitation, five in water quality management, and six in watershed management,” he said.

“There is no single repository of water data, and no regularly updated water availability data. This is an untenable situation.”

Also among the short-term measures that will be implemented to address the water shortage in Metro Manila is the activation by the NWRB of the standby deep wells designated for use during natural disasters.

Nograles said the NWRB will coordinate with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to identify which wells can be tapped, and to ensure that water quality in these wells is evaluated and constantly monitored. —NB, GMA News