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House government reorganization and public works panels create TWG to hammer out Water Department bill; Salceda named TWG chair

December 1st, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) has been named the technical working group chair for drafting the substitute bill to the 35 bills creating the Department of Water Resources. The TWG was created by the House Committees on Government Reorganization and Public Works today, after the first deliberation on the said bills during a joint committee hearing of both committees.

Salceda explained the measures as “imitating the model for energy regulation in the country, where you have NEA for missionary connection, ERC for rate regulation, NAPOCOR for generation, all under DOE for policy-setting and direction.”

“Under the current system for water, you don’t know where to go when you want to build a dam. Resource planning and management is disjointed. Disjointed governance means while water potential abounds, reliable, safe, and efficient delivery of potable water in the Philippines remains highly unequal,” Salceda pointed out.

Salceda says that only 43% of the country’s population has access to level 3 water supply, even as the country only uses 21% of its total potential water supply.

“We generate some 2200 mm of annual rainfall, nearly thrice what God gives China. So, we don’t have a water scarcity issue. We have a water management issue.”

Salceda also pointed out the highly unequal access to water, especially across income classes.

“91% of population has access to basic water services, but across regions, access ranges between 62% to 100%. 99% of top 20% of households have basic water services, while only 80% of bottom 20% have access,” Salceda said.

Salceda added that “Wide inconsistency between the access to water of urban areas (61%) and rural areas (25%). Rural areas’ access tend to be run by local water districts.”

Salceda described the proposed department as the “Apex body for the water sector responsible for water resources planning, policy formulation, and management of the ownership, appropriation, utilization, exploitation, development, sustainability and protection of water resources in the Philippines, except fisheries or aquaculture.”

The bill, Salceda says, aims to “To ensure and accelerate universal access to water supply and sanitation services, to encourage responsible private sector participation, fostering and prioritizing infrastructure and public works that adopt innovative solutions and international best practices to address the challenges of climate change; and to declare all water and water treatment infrastructure projects as projects imbued with national interest.”

Pending issues for the TWG to resolve include: attachment of the National Irrigation Administration to the proposed Department, inclusion of sewage systems under the jurisdiction of the Department, and the inclusion of flood control planning in the Department’s functions.

Salceda was also chair of the TWG for the bill during the 18th Congress.

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