By Danessa Rivera, January 1, 2024; The Philippine Star

Manila, Philippines — The country’s water security roadmap now awaits the approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board.

In a recent interview, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary and Water Resources Management Office (WRMO) head Carlos Primo David said the roadmap had been submitted to the NEDA Board.

“In Executive Order (EO) 22, which created the WRMO, it included the provision that’s important, which is to craft the integrated water resources management program. That report is now with the NEDA Cabinet cluster. After the NEDA, it’s going to be public,” he said.

Earlier, Metro Pacific Water president and CEO Rogelio Singson urged the government to publish its preliminary water security roadmap to get inputs from the private sector before finalizing the plan.

He said allowing the private sector to see and comment on the preliminary plans would aid in the proper execution of these water-related projects.

Singson said the private sector has a major role to play in this roadmap, such as watershed, water treatment, use of technology, use of artificial intelligence, water distribution and wastewater treatment.

The EO creating WRMO was issued by President Marcos in March. The new office is mandated to formulate and ensure the implementation of an integrated water resource management plan (IWRMP).

David said the IWRMP is divided into three sections: supply of water, distribution of water and its management.

“We started with supply, making sure that we have the resources available. In all honesty, we have so much water in the Philippines. The same water that creates flooding is the water we need for hydropower, irrigation, etc. So we need to impound those instead of pushing this to the ocean,” David said.

When the WRMO was created, President Marcos said its plans should include the construction of water impounding facilities to reduce flood damage and make effective use of water resources.

In August, the President directed the government to study the proposal to construct a water impounding facility in the Candaba swamp in Pampanga.

For distribution, the plan focuses on water conservation, “making sure water tariff is correct – it can’t be too cheap, too expensive,” David said.

The WRMO also seeks to address the country’s fragmented water and sanitation sector, increasing demand for water due to population and economic growth, impact of climate change, lack of infrastructure, and inconsistent government regulations.

The office will also serve as a transitory body pending the creation of a Department of Water.