House joint panel approves proposed Department of Water Resources bill

Robie de Guzman
Filipinos queue with their containers for a water ration at a residential district of Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA (FILE)

MANILA, Philippines – The House committees on government reorganization and on public highways on Tuesday jointly approved a consolidated bill seeking the creation of the Department of Water Resources Board (DWR) that will oversee policies on the country’s water supply.

The still unnumbered bill consolidated 35 House bills providing for the creation of the said agency.

Under the consolidated bill, the proposed Department of Water Resources will be the primary national agency to implement Presidential Decree No. 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines, and Republic Act No. 9275 or 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 Albay Second District Rep. Joey Salceda, who sponsored the bill and authored one of the substituted measures.

The new department’s attached agencies will include the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System, the Local Water Utilities Administration, the Laguna Lake Development Authority, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, and the National Irrigation Administration.

The measure also provides for the creation of the Water Regulatory Commission, which shall serve as an independent body.

“‘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,” Salceda said.

Proponents of the bill said the measure is timely given the issues plaguing the water supply in Metro Manila.

It is also in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to lawmakers in his State of the Nation Address to create a water department to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Currently, the National Water Resources Board under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources oversees the country’s water resources.

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