A woman waits for customers at her drum store selling P1,400 each item last March 19, 2019. The Department of Trade and Industry had recommended the inclusion of pails and containers as "basic necessities" under the price act as prices of water containers quadrupled in the past week as Metro Manila residents affected by a supply shortage scrambled to stock up.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, File photo
Department of Water should be on list of priority bills, says Nograles
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 9, 2019 - 2:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — The bill creating a water department should be included in the list of priority bills to institutionalize reforms intended to ensure enough water supply in the country, a Palace official said.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said succeeding presidents could undo the water resource measures to be implemented by the Duterte administration if the initiatives are only contained in an executive order (EO). 

"I think it should be included (in the priorities of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council or LEDAC) because of the fragmented approach that we have. The EO we are crafting can be superseded and amended by the next administration," Nograles told reporters in an interview last Monday. 

"The new administration will just overrule or cancel that EO then we go back to our old ways. But with the Department of Water, you have to pass through Congress. So ideally it has to be institutionalized through the Department of Water," he added. 

Nograles expressed hope that the bill creating the "Department of Water" would draw support in Congress. He said the measure may be discussed in the next meeting of the LEDAC. 

The creation of an agency on water concerns is one of the proposals in a road map that aims to address the effects of El Niño, which has so far damaged more than P5 billion worth of agricultural properties and products. 

Other measures contained the road map are conducting an intensive campaign for water and energy conservation, creating a "Department of Disaster Resilience," dredging of waterways, replacing tunnels and aqueducts, installing water tank systems in all hospitals under the health department and providing funds for water treatment plants. 

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo previously said President Rodrigo Duterte was in favor of the bill creating the "Department of Water" because it would prevent water supply interruptions similar to the crisis experienced recently by parts of Metro Manila and Rizal province.

Nograles said the creation of the water department would not displace government personnel. 

"We are just putting other offices under the Office of the President for better coordination. So the approach will be integrated but it will not disrupt, it will not dissolve any agency," he said. 

Pending the passage of the bill on water department, the Duterte administration is planning to release an EO that seeks to integrate all water-related policies and programs.

The order is expected to transform the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) into a body that will craft and harmonize policies on water issues. The NWRB may also be tasked to craft a national water management master plan that would integrate all road maps of different agencies. The NWRB is expected to be placed under the Office of the President. The board was placed under the environment department in 2002 through Executive Order No. 123. 

"That (EO) has to pass through vetting but in principle, the president has already approved it during the last Cabinet meeting...The draft has been given to the Office of the Executive Secretary already for vetting. So the draft is being finalized and it is awaiting the president's signature," Nograles said. 

"Basically we want to create a master plan in terms of managing our water resources. But in order to create a maste rplan, we have to get everybody, all the water sector bodies, offices, agencies, and departments, get together, coordinate with each other," he added.

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