By Jovee Marie de la Cruz, March 25 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol is pushing for the passage of a law that allows the Department of Agriculture (DA) to build small reservoirs nationwide to improve the country’s water system to avert future water crises.

The measure was among the recommendations made by the DA at the Cabinet-level meeting on water last week, according to Piñol. The meeting was presided by Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana.

In a separate development, however, a lawmaker noted there is a 30-year-old law mandating the setting up by barangays of rainwater collectors, which has not been implemented. Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said Congress should probe the “lifeless performance” of Rainwater Collector and Springs Development Law, or Republic Act 6715 as Metro Manila and 71 provinces reel from “waterless conditions.”

Piñol said they support the bill filed by Sen. Loren B. Legarda, who chairs the Senate Committee on Climate Change, that seeks to promote sustainable land management (SLM) programs, including the creation of a national soil and water conservation program.

Under the bill, according to Pi- ñol, the DA would receive “funding tobuildsmallreservoirs, impound- ing and water catchments all over the country.”

The other measures proposed by the DA include the dredging of major river systems nationwide “to increase water holding capacity and prevent flooding during rainy season.”

The DA also pushed for stricter enforcement of forest protection laws and the creation of a nation- al program to locate and identify headwaters to be declared as pro- tected areas. Piñol said he also rec- ommended the funding of alterna- tiveirrigationsystems, particularly the DA’s banner program of solar- powered irrigation.

“Unless these measures are im- plemented, the Philippines could face a major water crisis in the next few years,” he said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

At the meeting, Piñol said he made a presentation on the threat of a “looming water crisis” to the agriculture sector.

Piñol said the country’s water supply for agriculture has been de- cliningoverthepastdecadesdueto majorreasons, includingcontinued deforestation and absence of water conservation programs.

Thedelayintheimplementation of irrigation systems and reliance of the farm sector on traditional irrigation systems are also factors in the looming water crisis.

Piñol said the frequency of El Niño—now occurring every two years—drains the country’s water supply.

Rainwater collectors

AMID the water shortage, a law- maker on Sunday asked Congress to look into the implementation of a 30-year-old law that requires the installation of rainwater collectors in all barangays.

“Weactuallyhavea 1989 statute that calls for the construction of rainwater harvesters in all baran-

gays. But it seems that the execu- tion of the law has been wanting,” Surigao del Sur’s Pimentel said in a statement.

However, membersofthe House are asking large water users, such as malls, office buildings and golf courses, to install their own rain- water collectors.

“Congress has to ascertain the factors holding up the law’s aggres- sive operation, and fix the problem right away—whether it is simply due to lack of funding or other is- sues,” Pimentel added.

Section 2 of the law states: “The Department of Public Works and Highways shall, within 30 days after the approval of this Act, undertake the construction of water wells, rainwater collectors, development of springs and reha- bilitation of existing water wells in all barangays in the Philippines in such number as may be needed and feasible, taking into consider- ation the population, hydrologic conditions, costs of project devel- opment and operations, financial and economic factors and institu-

tional arrangements.”

At present, Pimentel, citing Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysi- cal and Astronomical Services Ad- ministration (Pagasa), said Metro Manilaand 40 provincesarereeling from a “dry spell.”

Areas are under a dry spell have had “three consecutive months of below normal rainfall, or two con- secutive months of way below nor- mal rainfall.”

In Luzon, the 24 provincesunder a dry spell are: Abra, Benguet, Ka- linga, Apayao, Mountain Province, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Bataan, Nue- va Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zam- bales, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, Marinduque, Romblon, Albay, Camarines Norte, Cama- rines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.

In the Visayas, the 11 prov- inces under a dry spell are: Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Oc- cidental, Negros Oriental, Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samarand Samar(Western Samar). In Mindanao, the five provinces under a dry spell are: Zamboanga

del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Tawi-Tawi.

According to a Pagasa assess- ment, 31 other provinces are expe- riencing either “drought” or a “dry condition.”

Drought means “three consecu- tive months of way below normal rainfall, orfiveconsecutivemonths of below normal rainfall.”

The 10 provinces reeling from drought are: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Occidental Mind- oro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Maguindanao and Sulu.

The 21 provinces experiencing dry condition, or two consecutive months of below normal rainfall, are: Ifugao, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Bulacan, Aurora, Rizal, Guimaras, Bohol, Cebu, Siqui- jor, Southern Leyte, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misa- mis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Basilan and Lanao del Sur.