Creating new department wonât solve water crisis â lawmakers
The three said forming a new agency to resolve the water crisis could delay the solution and even aggravate the problem.
The STAR/Michael Varcas /File

Creating new department won’t solve water crisis — lawmakers

Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Three congressmen warned their colleagues yesterday that creating a new department to put water agencies under one umbrella would not solve the water crisis that millions of residents of Metro Manila and neighboring areas are facing.

Despite the warning of Reps. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list, Bayani Fernando of Marikina and Rodante Marcoleta of Sagip, the House of Representatives committee on government reorganization endorsed a consolidated bill creating the Department of Water Resources and Services (DWRS).            

The three said forming a new agency to resolve the water crisis could delay the solution and even aggravate the problem.            

“What we are facing is not an issue of supply but of distribution and the failure of existing agencies and their contractors to provide us with adequate water,” Atienza said.            

He said there is enough water in Manila Bay, Laguna Lake and in rivers in Quezon, Rizal and Bulacan, but the concerned government offices have failed to convert it to potable supply and bring it to Metro Manila.

He said the problem is also rooted in the government’s decision “to make water a commercial and profitable product.”

Atienza cited the creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development “that we created two years ago but which is still not organized.”

Up to now, the department still has no secretary, he said.

“That is what will happen if we create this water department. It will just delay the solution, which current agencies and their concessionaires should work on,” he stressed.

He pointed out that part of the solution is reducing and wiping out the so-called system losses, or supply lost due to old pipes, leakages, jumpers and pilferage.

“Do we need a new department to plug water leaks?” he asked.

Defending the proposed DWRS creation, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, one of the authors of the bill, said having a department “will hasten the solution of the problem, since only one agency will make the decision and will be responsible and accountable.”

“At present, there is diffused responsibility,” he said.

Atienza said under the current setup, “only one person is also responsible and accountable, and that is the President.”

“The buck stops with him,” he said.

Fernando said the House “might be raising false hopes about an immediate solution by creating this DWRS.”

“It will take time to organize this department. It will also take two years to three years to build the Kaliwa or Kanan dam in Quezon-Rizal,” he said.

For his part, Marcoleta reminded his colleagues that Congress raised hopes that the cost of electricity would go down when it enacted the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001.

The opposite happened, with the Philippines having one of the highest electricity rates in Asia, he said.            

He said the DWRS bill might be another Epira.    

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