Palace working on EO to address water issues

Published March 13, 2019, 6:59 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Argyll Geducos

Malacañang is now working on an Executive Order (EO) that would allow the government to properly address water issues in the country, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles revealed.


Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (SCREENSHOT / RTVM / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (SCREENSHOT / RTVM / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

Nograles made the statement as residents in certain portions of Metro Manila and nearby regions experience unannounced water interruptions.

In his statement, Nograles said that several government agencies were working on an EO even before the water crisis.

“Even before parts of NCR suffered water supply problems, the Economic Cluster and the Cabinet Assistance System (CAS) was already working on an issuance that would help the government better resolve the many issues involving the supply and distribution of water,” he said.

According to the former lawmaker, the inter-agency efforts were prompted by policy issues that were unearthed in the process of finalizing the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan (PDP).

“If you go through the PDP, you will see that it admits that despite the country’s abundant water resources, there are issues in the development, utilization and management of water-related services,” he said.

“The objective of the CAS is to come up with an issuance that addresses these issues,” he added.

Nograles said that the issues include, among others, the limited operationalization of integrated water resources management (IWRM) in many of the country’s river basins and watersheds, which results in the resources’ suboptimal use and wastage and uncoordinated plans, projects and programs; quantifying the extent of many issues in the water resources sector (i.e., water resource availability or lack thereof, water stress levels, inefficiency in use, over/underutilization of resources, groundwater pollution, land subsidence, saltwater intrusion, etc.), thus the challenges involved in proper planning and management given the lack of available updated, consolidated, and/or harmonized data; and access to safe water supplies due to the uneven distribution of freshwater sources.

“The Administration knows that these issues have to be addressed and we know the fundamental challenges involved. Our priority now is to provide the President with a way to resolve these issues, and we should be threshing out the details in the next few days,” he said.

The Palace official then explained that there are at least 32 agencies involved in the water sector, with different offices involved in the various aspects of IWRM.

“The components include water supply, sewerage and sanitation, irrigation, flood management, watershed management, financing, policy formulation and coordination. Obviously, we need a whole-of-government approach to water, and that is on the agenda in the next CAS meeting,” Nograles stressed.

The next CAS meeting will be held in Palo, Leyte, on Friday.

In his statement, Nograles said the sourcing and delivery of water are challenges the government has worked to address in recent years.

“Based on the 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), about 55.3 percent of the population gets water from community-level piped water systems, 35.4 percent from various types of wells, 6.8 percent from springs/rivers and lakes, and the remaining 2.5 percent from peddlers and other uncategorized water sources,” his statement read.

His statement also noted that an estimated 87.2 percent of the country’s population obtain water from safe sources. In terms of the level of service, only 43.6 percent have piped connections, 11.2 percent use communal faucets, while the remaining 45.2 percent rely on point sources.

Based on data from the Listahang Tubig Database, of the 713 established Water Districts (WDs) in the Philippines, only 440 are operational (273 are considered non-operational), serving only up to 55.6 percent of the total population.