House panels okay creation of proposed new water department

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    THE House of Representatives has approved in the committee level a substitute bill creating the Department of Water Resources and Services (DWRS) to help address the water shortage in Metro Manila.

    The committees on government reorganization and on public works and highways approved the consolidated measure to rationalize water resource management and provide the public with clean, safe, and accessible water.

    Under the bill, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the regulatory agency overseeing concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad, the National Water Resources Board, Local water Utilities Administration, Laguna Lake Development Authority, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and the National Irrigation Administration will become attached agencies of the DWRS.

    “The Department can enter into contracts, joint ventures, MOUs and MOAs to invest in and/or in financing of water-related projects,” the measure said.

    Various lawmakers filed a total of 35 measures seeking to establish the new department, heeding President Duterte’s call for its creation.

    Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chief Jeci Lapus has been proposing the creation of a Department of Water as a long-term solution to the water crisis in Metro Manila.

    Lapus also proposed that a short-term solution could be to direct the water districts in the country to apportion their resources to the affected areas although a major concern would be the actual transportation of water supply.

    Manila Water supplies 135 to 140 million liters daily to its consumers in Metro Manila.

    Under the proposed law, the DWRS shall be the primary national agency responsible for the comprehensive and integrated planning, policy formulation and management of water resources in the Philippines.

    The bill also calls for the creation of the Water Regulatory Commission (WRC), an independent regulatory and quasi-judicial body, and shall be an attached agency of the new department.

    Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza opposed the measure, arguing that creating a department will not solve the problem because “it will only delay the solutions.”

    Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, author of HB No. 4897 and chair of the House committee on energy, said the management of the country’s water resources remains “fragmented and uncoordinated with over 30 government units and agencies at national and local levels implementing separate and disharmonized policies, plans and programs to develop and operate water facilities and infrastructure for various uses, regulate water use and set tariffs, and monitor water-related parameters.”

    Velasco cited a 2015 World Resources Institute study warning that the Philippines will likely experience a “severe water shortage” by the year 2040.