By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Francis Tolentino has reiterated the need for a Department of Water amid the looming water crisis in Metro Manila and other areas in the country.
Tolentino called on his colleagues in Congress to prioritize the measures that would create a single department to consolidate all existing government agencies on water regulation and distribution.
The proposed agency, he said, would be a long-term solution to the recurring water supply problems not only in Metro Manila, but also in other regions of the Philippines.
“Priority bill po ito ng Pangulo. Eh siguro dapat talaga mauna na ito, dahil ang sinasabi ko lagi, hindi lang ito Metro Manila. Hindi lang ito ‘yong usapin ng nasasakupan ng Maynilad o ‘yong Manila Water (This is a priority bill of the President. Maybe we should prioritize this, because as I have been saying, this does not only concern Metro Manila. This is not an issue confined to the areas supplied by Maynilad Water Services Inc. or Manila Water Company),” Tolentino said in an interview over DZRH Tuesday.
The neophyte senator told his fellow lawmakers not to focus on short-term solutions and instead look beyond the inefficiencies of water concessionaires.
He repeated his warning of a “nationwide water shortage” in 2050 should the government fail to resolve the issues in the country’s water management, citing an Asian Development Bank study.
“Kaya napakalaking bagay po na magkaroon tayo ng kagawaran ng patubig…para matutukan na po ito. Hindi lang sa ngayon kundi ‘yong long-term natin na pangangailangan (That’s why it is important that we have our own Department of Water so we could address not only our current problem but our long-term water needs),” Tolentino said.
“Baka mas malala po ‘yong problemang susuungin natin kung hindi tayo maghahanda (We might face worse problems if we do not prepare for it),” he added.
Tolentino is pushing for the passage of his Senate Bill No. 208, proposing the creation of the Department of Water Resources Management which shall be the primary agency responsible for the comprehensive and integrated water resources development and management in the country.
Under his bill, the proposed department shall assume all the obligations of all government agencies on water; such as the National Irrigation Administration, National Water Resources Board, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, River Basin Control Office, Manila Bay Coordinating Office, Local Water Utilities Administration, Metro Manila Development Authority, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Interior and Local Government, Laguna Lake Development Authority, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, and Water Resources Regional Offices.
President Duterte earlier said that he might use his “extraordinary powers,” including a possible government takeover, should Maynilad and Manila Water fail to solve the imminent water shortage in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President would have to declare a national emergency before invoking the government’s power to takeover the operations of the two water concessionaires.