The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) welcomes the recent pronouncement of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to create an agency that is solely focused on water resources management and preservation “as this will make sure that clean and potable drinking water will be made available to all Filipinos even those in faraway barangays.”
DILG Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” C. Abalos, Jr. said the planned creation of a Department of Water Resources, which is one of the priority legislative agendas of President Marcos Jr.’s administration, “will ensure the availability of reliable and potable water supply, especially in 842 municipalities all over the country that still suffers from intermittent water supply services and lack of proper sanitation.”
“It is unfortunate that in this day and age, water is still a luxury for many Filipinos who still do not have access to clean drinking water. With the creation of a Department of Water Resources, there will be a dedicated government agency that will integrate and harmonize water management efforts of different water agencies and ensure the optimal management of water resources,” he said.
Abalos said the new department will also be able to tackle the interconnected problems of lack of autonomy; lack of technical, financial, and managerial capacities; and zero cost recovery which are mostly seen in poorly managed LGU-run utilities.
“Water is not an infinite resource. Hence, we need this new Department to better manage and preserve this essential resource to meet the needs of the growing population,” he said.
During his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Pres. Marcos Jr. pushed for the creation of the Department of Water Resources and the adoption of the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) as the strategic framework for national water management, policymaking and planning.
On the part of the DILG, Abalos said the Department has been an active partner in improving water supply and sanitation over the past years through the various locally-funded programs.
Among such programs are Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig sa Lahat (SALINTUBIG) (2012 - 2020), Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) (2013 - 2016), Assistance to Municipalities (AM) (2017-2020), Financial Assistance to Local Government Units (FALGU) Program (2021), and Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP), prioritizing low-income waterless communities in conflict areas, as identified by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
He said the Salintubig Project has also been revived to cover more waterless areas in the country that still do not have access to adequate, clean water supply for the daily needs of the residents.
Since 2012, some 4.3-million households across the country have already benefitted from the 8,264 completed potable water supply and sanitation projects completed through the Department’s programs.
10 Pilot LGUs completed the WB-funded program
Meanwhile, Abalos said that 10 pilot local government units (LGUs) are now more ready and capacitated to manage their own local water facilities and ensure the continuous supply of safe and potable water for their constituents after having completed World Bank’s (WB) Utility of the Future (UoF) Program.
Abalos said the UoF program, which is a collaborative undertaking between WB and the Department, aims to scale up LGU capacities in managing water supply and sanitation (WSS) facilities to enable them to “provide reliable, safe, inclusive, transparent, and responsive WSS services and operate in an efficient, resilient, innovative, and sustainable manner.”
The 10 pilot LGUs which have completed the UoF program are: Jones, Isabela; Dupax del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya; Anao, Tarlac; Pura, Tarlac; Inabanga, Bohol; Bantayan, Cebu; Dolores, Eastern Samar; Leyte, Leyte; Bontoc, Southern Leyte; and Rosario, Agusan del Sur.
Following the success of the pilot run of the program, Abalos said he is keen on working with WB to expand the said program to other LGUs nationwide, especially with the full devolution of basic services to LGUs starting this year and the increased tax shares of LGUs with the implementation of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling.
Under the UoF program, a comprehensive utility assessment was conducted and LGUs were required to develop a 100-day action plan to jumpstart utility reform, obtain quick wins, and tackle the most pressing issues on water utility operations and sustainability. LGUs are urged to have open communication to facilitate the exchange of ideas, constant collaboration, and catalyze the development of good practices throughout the implementation of the UoF program.
The DILG provides oversight, coordination, technical assistance and capacity development; while the WB provides technical assistance, assessment, performance benchmarking and improvement planning.