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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Joint panel approves bill creating Department of Water Resources
12 November 2019 09:01:12 PM

The House Committees on Government Reorganization and Public Works and Highways jointly approved on Tuesday an unnumbered substitute bill consolidating 35 House Bills seeking to create the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Water Regulatory Commission (WRC).

Rep. Mario Vittorio Marino (5th District, Batangas), Chairman of the Committee on Government Reorganization, and Rep. Ramon Guico (5th District, Pangasinan), who represented the Committee on Public Works and Highways, co-presided the hearing.

In his opening remarks, Guico noted the urgency and importance of the substitute measure given the issues plaguing the water supply in Metro Manila and the directives of President Rodrigo Duterte. "Our agenda is very timely due to the recent and continuing water crisis which is being experienced by the residents of Metro Manila and nearby provinces. President Duterte no less in his 4th State of the Nation Address called for the Members of the 18th Congress to enact a legislation that will establish a Department of Water Resources," Guico said.

The DWR shall be the primary national agency to implement Presidential Decree No. 1067, otherwise known as the Water Code of the Philippines and Republic Act No. 9275, otherwise known as the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004. Its creation shall ensure that there is a government body responsible and accountable for all aspects of water resource management, including the development of dams and other infrastructure, the harvest of water, and the management of the waste water system.

"[Ang DWR] ang dapat sisihin kung may krisis sa susunod. Walang iba, wala kang ibang ituturo. Ang Department of Water na ito ang siyang responsible para resolbahin at maprevent ang water crisis," said Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda (2nd District, Albay), who sponsored the bill at the meeting and is an author of one of the substituted measures.

The measure also provides for the creation of the Water Regulatory Commission, which shall serve as an independent, quasi-judicial regulatory body under the administrative supervision of the DWR as an attached agency. "'Yung Department of Water essentially in charge of resource management. 'Yung isa naman, economic regulation. Anong kaibahan? 'Yung water resource management essentially paghahanap ng tubig, pagtransmit ng tubig. Pero pagdating sa epekto sa ekonomiya—halimbawa, sa presyo, sa taripa—'yan walang pakialam [ang DWR] except for siguro sa pagcharge ng fees for raw water pricing," explained Rep. Salceda.

He added that it falls on the State to ensure that water is affordable and accessible to all citizens. "Water is a right. All water belongs to the State, which shall govern its development and use for the people. Water is basic right. So ibig sabihin, lahat—kahit gaano man kasulok, kahit sa geographically isolated, disadvantaged, o conflict area—ay dapat hindi mawawalan [ng tubig]… Ang tubig is a public utility. Sa makatuwid, kailangan talaga iregulate ng gobyerno," Salceda said.