By Paolo Romero, March 27 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — At least P38 billion has been allocated in the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget for 2019 for projects that will protect the country’s water resources and ensure water supply.

Data from the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office showed that P38.354 billion has been allocated to five agencies involved in managing water resources in the 2019 General Appropriations Bill.

The National Water Resources Board, under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), was appropriated P146 million this year.

The agency is responsible for all the water resources in the Philippines. It coordinates and regulates all water-related activities that impact on the physical environment and economy.

The DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau was allocated P54 million for its groundwater resource assessment project, while the Office of the Secretary was given P280 million for its soil conservation and watershed management program, including river basin management and development project.

For this year, the Local Water Utilities Administration was listed as having P325 million, while some P1.549 billion was set aside for local governments as “Provision for Potable Water Supply.”

The largest allocation went to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) with P36 billion to fund the free irrigation for small-scale farmers to help them cope with El Niño.

The appropriations do not include small funds embedded in other agencies that may include water projects.

Sen. Loren Legarda, who chairs the Senate finance committee, earlier said the funding for free irrigation was important in helping ensure food security and in assisting farmers.

“This will be a big boost for the agriculture sector as we have unburdened our small farmers, who are among the poorest of the poor even if they are the ones who feed the nation,” Legarda said.

The funding was pursuant to Republic Act 10969 or the Free Irrigation Service Act, co-authored by Legarda.

Under the law, small farmers will be exempted from paying service fees for water derived from irrigation systems under the NIA.