By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Government Reorganization and House Committee on Public Works and Highways on Tuesday jointly approved a substitute bill creating the Department of Water Resources (DWR) that would ensure reliable, safe, quality, and affordable water supply, and prevent water crisis in the country.
After more than two hours of deliberations, the two House panels unanimously passed the bill, presented by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the Technical Working Group (TWG) tasked to consolidate 35 bills on the proposed creation of the Department of Water Resources. Baguio Rep. Mark Go moved for the approval of the unnumbered substitute bill.
“Water is a basic human right. Water is a public utility so it should be regulated by the government,” Salceda said before the passage of the bill.
He explained that under the bill, the new Department shall be the primary national agency responsible for the comprehensive and integrated planning, policy formulation, and management of water resources in the Philippines.
Salceda said the bill also calls for the creation of the Water Regulatory Commission (WRC), an independent regulatory and quasi-judicial body which shall be under the umbrella of the new department.
BUHAY party-list Rep. Lito Atienza opposed the creation of the new Department, saying it still needs a thorough study.
“Creating a Department will not solve the problem. Creating it only delays the solutions,” he said.
Under the substitute bill, the functions of the following key water agencies – River Basin Control Office Manila Bay Coordinating Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Flood Management Planning and Sediment Functions of the DPWH, Water Supply and Sanitation Unit of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Water Quality Management Section of Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-DENR will be transferred to the DWR.
Under the bill, the following agencies shall be attached to the DWR: Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), and National Irrigation Administration (NIA) as an infrastructure arm.
The bill also authorizes the DWR to create subsidiaries, instrumentalities, and entities to engage in water-related programs, projects and activities.
“The Department can enter into contracts, joint ventures, MOUs, and MOAs to invest in and/or in financing of water-related projects,” it said.
The bill also provides that concession agreements and other contracts for water supply provision currently existing shall remain valid and in force, unless otherwise invalidated by the Commission where public interest so dictates, after due notice and hearing for reasons provided in the concession or service agreement or contract.