House panels OK bill creating Department of Water Resources and Services

Mara Cepeda
But Buhay Representative Lito Atienza opposes the measure, saying 'creating a department will only magnify the problem and delay the solutions'

WATER CRISIS. On Friday, June 21, 2019, the water level of Angat Dam, the main source of water for Metro Manila and nearby provinces, is at the critical mark of 160 meters. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the ongoing water supply shortage, lawmakers are seeking to create a new government department that would centralize the management of water resources in the country. 

On Tuesday, November 12, the House committees on government reorganization as well as public works and highways approved a still-unnumbered substitute bill consolidating all 35 measures proposing the creation of the Department of Water Resources and Services (DWSS). 

The bill will have to go through 2nd and 3rd readings before it successfully passes through the  House of Representatives.  

If passed into law, the measure would mandate the DWSS to be primarily responsible for the comprehensive and integrated planning, policy formulation, and management of the country’s water resources. 

“Any issue concerning the potable water, domestic water, water for agriculture, and water energy and its optimal use, the Department of Water would now be in charge,” Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda told reporters in Filipino after the hearing.

Salceda was the chair of the technical working group that consolidated all measures proposing to establish the new department. 

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, the regulatory agency overseeing concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad, as well as the National Water Resources Board, would become attached agencies of the DWSS.

The House committees approved the bill as parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces continue to experience rotational water service interruption from both Manila Water and Maynilad. Regular supply is expected to come back only when the water level at Angat Dam rises to its ideal of 212 meters.

Buhay Representative Lito Atienza, hwoever, believes creating the DWSS would not solve the water crisis.

“We cannot create another level of governance when the present level is not working…. We hope that committee is guided accordingly… Creating a department will only magnify the problem and delay the solutions.

But his colleagues did not heed his warning and approved the bill anyway. 

The DWSS bill is among the priority legislative measures of the House under Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia also backed the measure.  

Malacañang earlier warned President Rodrigo Duterte may resort to “drastic” action over the ongoing water shortage in Metro Manila, including making good on his threat to cancel agreements with water concessionaires. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.