By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” on Friday called for sweeping reforms in the water sector to ensure the availability of the precious resource at all times.
Angara made the call as parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces experienced water shortage that has exposed the government’s lack of a master plan to ensure proper water management and governance.
“The problem brings to light the urgent need to put in place an integrated water resource master plan for water security,” Angara said.
At the same time, Angara urged the Duterte government to consider the appointment of an “anti-El Niño” czar who would oversee programs aimed at addressing the ill-effects of the phenomenon.
“This early, the government should appoint an anti-El Nino czar who will orchestrate a multiagency response to the dry spell, which is already causing farm harvest to dip,” said the senator.
“With the dry spell getting severe each year, climate change and increasing population, it is imperative that we secure all available and accessible water resources,” he stressed.
The Senate and House of Representatives have earlier started separate probe into the water crisis that has gripped residents of Manila and Rizal since the massive water interruption on March 6.
Lawmakers particularly demanded Manila Water to compensate its consumers who were severely affected by the water shortage.
Senators were also disappointed over Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) admission they do not have a master plan or long-term solutions to permanently fix water shortages.
“Every year the country struggles with severe El Niño events. Every year our water dams drop to critical levels,” Angara pointed out.
“Unless we address these and come up with long-term and integrated solutions, we are all in trouble,” said the senator.
Angara earlier proposed to amend the 43-year-old Water Code of the Philippines, or Presidential Decree No. 1067, to ensure that it is able to respond to the requirements of the country.
“We have to make the law more responsive to the needs of the times. Dati-rati wala namang climate change, noon wala namang El Niño. But this is the new normal now,” he explained.
He said part of the reform should also include the audit of all government agencies and institutions dealing with water resource and its management whose functions seem to be teeming with duplication.
Angara, citing a 2018 study by Arangkada Philippines on water, noted that there were over 30 agencies managing and overseeing the country’s water resources.
“This is a very complicated environment, and rather than come out with a timely response to water problems, it may be impeding our government agencies,” Angara said.
The senator, who is running for another Senate term in the upcoming May 2019 elections, has earlier reiterated his call for the government to enforce Republic Act 6716, also known as the Rainwater Collector and Springs Development Act of 1989.
He noted that the law, which requires the construction of rainwater collectors in every barangay to prevent flooding and ensure the continuous provision of clean water during dry seasons, has yet to be fully implemented since its enactment almost 30 years ago.
Also with the appointment of an anti-El Niño czar, Angara suggested that government come up with an “El Niño action plan” to be rolled out in food-growing areas in the country.