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Water Act seen to address consumer woes

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The House of Representatives is already finalizing the bill that will create the Department of Water Resources (DWR), which will integrate the government’s fragmented water resources management systems and pursue a sustainable program for the wise use and conservation of the country’s vital resources.

The National Water Act bill is a response to the urgent public clamor for better water services, which President Rodrigo Duterte fully endorsed.

It consolidates about 30 proposals and seeks to establish a Water Regulatory Commission (WRC) under the DWR.

The House expects to pass in January next year the measure which lays out the National Framework for Water Resource Management (NFWRM) to ensure and accelerate universal public access to water and sanitation services under a regulatory regime that encourages responsible private sector participation and involvement.

Technical Working Group head Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, also chair of the House Ways and Means committee, said the DWR shall be responsible for the formulation of comprehensive and integrated policies and programs on water, as well as the management system for the ownership, appropriation, development, utilization, and protection of the country’s water resources.

It will ensure the optimal use of water for domestic, commercial, hydropower, irrigation, sanitation, industry, navigation, recreation, fisheries and aquaculture.

It will also be tasked to implement Presidential Decree 1067 (Water Code of the Philippines) and Republic Act 9275 (Clean Water Act).

The WRC will be a regulatory body which applies to all public and private service providers for levels II and III water supply, “including those supplying water to subdivisions or providing water for sewerage, septage treatment and disposal services for domestic,  institutional, industrial or commercial use.”

Salceda noted that the “continued overlapping and fragmented management and regulation of water resources and services hinders the development of a comprehensive, integrated and doable long-term solutions to address problems, especially in areas already identified as water-stressed.”

A 2015 independent research said more than 12 million people in the Philippines still get water from unsafe sources.

Starting Thursday, Maynilad and Manila Water will implement another rotational water supply due to the “continuous decline of raw water levels in the Angat and Ipo Dams” and “limited supply management” in preparation for the summer of 2020.

Salceda said there is an urgent need to “properly plan for” the country’s “finite water resources to meet the increasing demand of a growing population, continuing economic development, and many competing users.”

As pointed out by the Philippine Water Supply and Sanitation Master Plan, it is imperative that these problems are promptly addressed, considering the adverse impacts of unsafe water supply and polluted waters have on people’s health and the economy.

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