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Bill seeking creation of water department filed at Senate

A senator has filed a bill seeking the creation of a department that would develop and implement a "comprehensive" Philippine water, irrigation, sewage and sanitation program.

Days after Malacañang thumb down a similar suggestion by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Senator Bam Aquino moved for the establishment of a Department of Water, Irrigation, Sewage and Sanitation Resource Management, which would, among other duties, "manage and protect the country's water resources."

The proposed department, Aquino said, "will strengthen and coordinate water resource planning and policy-making to ensure sustainable and fair allocationn and efficient use of water resources between competing water uses and users, including but not limited to domestic and municipal use, irrigation, power generation, farming, fisheries, commercial, and industrial use."

In the explanatory note for Senate Bill No. 2216, Aquino, who is seeking reelection in the May 13 elections, said the currently "fragmented" water regulation in the country has "resulted in a backlog in the provision of water supply and sanitation services to the public."

He said the current water management system involves several government agencies, including the National Water Resources Board, the Local Water Utilities Administration, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, and the National Irrigation Administration.

The bill also suggests that the water department will regulate the use of water and "determine the standards of beneficial and priority uses of water in times of crisis and national emergencies."

Aquino envisions the department to maintain flood control, water resource development, and irrigation systems, as well as other public works except those under the responsibility of other agencies.

The senator, who is with the Otso Diretso opposition slate, said Wednesday that there currently seems to be no accountability in connection with the recent water supply shortage in parts of Metro Manila.

He said the creation of a water department would clarify the infrastructure and accountability for water resource management. —KBK, GMA News