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7 urgent solutions from 7 pre-summits

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7 urgent solutions from 7 pre-summits

05:07 AM July 18, 2017

Approximately 700 carefully selected participants recently contributed seven urgent solutions from Seven Water Pre-Summits. These were held last May, June, and July in Davao, Bohol, Pampanga, and Metro Manila.

Five Pre-Summit topics were chosen from the Asian Development Bank water study across 48 Asia-Pacific countries: environment, economy, household, urban, and resilience. In both 2013 and 2016, the Philippines consistently ranked in the bottom quarter for each topic. Two additional topics in the Philippines were chosen for special focus: agriculture and governance.

The uniqueness of these recommendations is that they will prevent a Nato (No action, talk only) exercise. This is because there will be a scorecard kept on the implementation of these recommendations every quarter for the next year.

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The main organizers of this water initiative come from the legislature (the Senate and House of Representatives), the executive branch (led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Authority and the Office of the Cabinet Secretary), and the private sector (Agri-Fisheries Alliance and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry). Technical support is provided by the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), with inputs solicited from other government and private sector leaders.

The following are the seven issues and their corresponding solutions:

1. Issue: There is a lack of coordination among our 38 water-related agencies. In addition, the NWRB combines both promotional and regulatory functions, without even one extension office outside Metro Manila.

Solution: Certify a presidential priority bill creating an apex water body, with a separate strong regulatory agency. In the meantime, immediately increase NWRB personnel and resources, with at least one extension office in Visayas and one in Mindanao.

2. Issue: There is a disjointed water management approach. For the 18 critical river basins which should constitute the main strategic focus, there is a total budget of only P900,000 per basin in 2017 and 2018.

Solution: The globally recognized Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) approach should be used in the 18 critical water basins. In addition, full-time personnel (currently there is none) and at least P12 million per basin should be provided to take advantage of the completed master plans and existing multisectoral councils.

3. Issue: Only 4 percent of our rainwater is harvested, compared to 60 percent in some parts of India.

Solution: Provide strong government regulation. Examples are requiring a rainwater harvesting system for any new building through a new provision in the Building Code, and mandating all government buildings to use only water-efficient structures.

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4. Issue: The more than P40-billion irrigation budget is allocated inefficiently, with consequent underutilization and waste.

Solution: Employ a return on investment (ROI) method in deciding where to spend irrigation money. Examples are comparing repairs versus new construction, small versus large irrigation, and irrigation for rice versus other agricultural commodities. Give free water until the point that it is no longer cost-efficient, beyond which volumetric pricing should be used to enable other farmers to use otherwise wasted water.

5. Issue: Water-related data are scattered across different sources with no consolidation done.

Solution: Require all water-related data to be submitted in a consistent form to the Philippine Statistics Authority. This will enable informed water management planning, as well as encourage decentralized water resource centers to better provide management, development and research expertise.

6. Issue: 8.5 million Filipinos have no access to clean drinking water, with many poorer communities actually being waterless.

Solution: Significantly increase the water budget to ensure safe water, especially for the poor, and utilize the most cost-effective technology.

7. Issue: 5.7 million hectares of our forest lands are now denuded, and only 130,000 hectares of mangroves remain.

Solution: Complete the announced DENR programs of reforesting 1 million hectares using primarily bamboo with accompanying livelihood activities, which can now hold water, and restoring 300,000 hectares of mangroves, which can now guard against storm surges.

President Duterte committed to address our neglected water situation on April 16, 2016, when he met Agri-Fisheries Alliance. Together with the combined efforts of the legislative, executive branch and private sector organizers who submitted the above implementable solutions,

Mr. Duterte can now give our deplorable water predicament the attention it deserves.

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