Palace taking over water board

Published March 17, 2019, 12:54 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Genalyn Kabiling, Hannah Torregoza, Charissa Luci-Atienza

The Office of the President (OP) is poised to take over the supervision of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to craft a master plan on water management in the country, a Palace official said Sunday.

The transfer of the NWRB to the OP from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be among the proposed provisions of the draft executive order to help address the country’s water issues, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles (Federico Cruz / File | Manila Bulletin)

The draft EO, covering different components of integrated water resource management (IWRM), will be submitted to the President for his input and approval, he added.

“Given the scope and breadth of water-related concerns, the supervision of OP could help ensure that all 30-plus agencies involved in water resource management are on the same page,” said Nograles who led the Cabinet Assistance System (CAS) meeting in Leyte last Friday.

He said the NWRB would be reconstituted into a body responsible for policy, direction-setting, and the integration of all government efforts related to water.

The board would also craft “a national water management master plan that will integrate all relevant and existing plans and roadmaps of the different agencies that play a role in IWRM,” he said.

House probe

Top officials of Manila Water, Maynilad, water regulators, and five Metro Manila mayors are expected to attend Monday’s joint House panel probe on the water crisis in Metro Manila and Rizal.

The House Committee on Metro Manila Development, chaired by Quezon City Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo and the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez are set to jointly conduct the hearing at 7 a.m. Monday.

“We need to get a clear picture of the situation and how we’re going to deal with it because a lot of people are already getting adversely affected by the problem,” Castelo said.

“We will need explanations from the concessionaires, regulators, and the experts why we got into this mess and their suggestion on how we can get out of it,” he said.

Castelo expressed hope that all the invited resource persons would attend the hearing so that they can “collectively come up with the right approach to overcome the water crisis.”

Benitez said, “We have to look into the water shortage with dispatch and assure the people that the government is addressing the problem with assurance that it would not happen again.”

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles attributed Metro Manila’s water shortage to Manila Water’s alleged lack of foresight and mismanagement.

“The water interruptions are localized within the concession areas of Manila Water. This is simply mismanagement. Manila Water should be truthful to the public instead of blaming Mother Nature for their negligence,” he said.

Metro Manila mayors who are expected to attend the hearing are Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Pasig City Mayor Roberto Eusebio, Navotas City Mayor John Reynald Tiangco, Muntinlupa City Mayor Jaime Fresnedi, and Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan.

Also invited to the joint panel probe are Manila Water Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ferdinand dela Cruz, Maynilad Water Services President and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez, Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) Administrator Jeci Lapus, LWUA Chairman Rogelio Uy, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Reynaldo Velasco, MWSS Regulatory Office Chief Regulator Patrick Ty, National Water Resources Board Executive Director Servillo David, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) Administrator Vicente Malano, Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines President Rustico Jimenez, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Director Leonard Bañago, and Philippine Hospital Association President Huberto Lapuz.

Action plan

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) will soon implement the action plan called for by President Duterte to address the water shortage being experienced by customers of water concessionaire Manila Water Company Inc. (MWCI).

The plan seeks to ease the burden of customers, who have to either scramble or spend hours waiting in line for water.

“We will mobilize fire brigades, mayors, aside from the water concessionaires to end all that queuing,” MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco said.

The MWSS will also be meeting with parties concerned to finalize the matter, Velasco added.

President Duterte had earlier ordered the MWSS to demand from water concessionaires and other concerned offices to release water from Angat Dam good for 150 days to address the water shortage.

Velasco, however, clarified the President’s order is not to literally draw that volume of water from Angat but to ensure the people get ample water supply.

“I know what the President means — he wants the water shortage problem solved so there won’t be queuing for water anymore,” Velasco said.

He said Angat releases water to MWCI and MWSS’ other concessionaire, Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI) at the rate of 4,000 million liters per day (MLD) only.

“We can’t increase that anymore,” he said, citing the current design limitations and infrastructure of the water distribution system.

Water conservation ordinance

Senator Richard Gordon urged local chief executives in Metro Manila to release an ordinance directing their constituents to observe water conservation practices.

Gordon said that with thousands of families in Metro Manila affected by the water interruption implemented by east zone water concessionaire Manila Water due to shortage in their supply, it is imperative that local LGUs should issue ordinances geared to water conservation to prevent the water crisis from worsening.

Gordon said it is very important that the people be conscious of their water usage and observe water conservation measures.

“We should conserve water. We can take simple actions at home so we don’t contribute in worsening the problem,” Gordon said in a statement.

“The LGUs should issue ordinances to ensure that all their constituents practice water conservation. We should all do our part,” he said adding that the public should use water efficiently but minimally.

Gordon assured that the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) will help provide clean and potable water to the thousands of families affected but hospitals must be prioritized to ensure that healthcare services will not be interrupted and to avoid health complications, such as sepsis, a type of blood infection.

READ MORE: Villafuerte files House bill that seeks to mandate the collection of rainwater, Gordon urges LGUs to issue ordinances on water conservation