Competent water management is the solution to our nation’s serious water problem. Note that 73 people die every day from water-related diseases. However, this gets very little coverage and, therefore, very little attention. Thirty-two water-related agencies are still largely uncoordinated, resulting in an urgent need for better governance.
To be fair, steps are already being taken to address the problem. On April 16, 2016, in a 4:00 a.m. meeting with then presidential candidate Duterte, he committed to address our concerns. The meeting was a small one. He and his special assistant, Bong Go, met with the leaders of the five-coalition Agri Fisheries Alliance. These coalitions represent small farmers and fisherfolk (Alyansa Agrikultura), agribusiness (Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food), science and academe (Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines), rural women (Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan) and multisector leaders (Agri Fisheries 2025). The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry was also in attendance.
When he was elected, President Duterte made good on his commitment. On June 20, 2017, he called for a meeting in Malacañang that was well attended by representatives from his Cabinet, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the private sector.
During that meeting, Sen. Loren Legarda said: “This initiative is unique. Usually it is the government that asks for private sector participation. This time, it is the private sector asking government to help them address our water crisis.”
Thereafter, several conferences for the protection of water were held in Davao, Bohol, Pampanga and Metro Manila.
Based on studies by the Asian Development Bank in 2013 and 2016, the Philippines was in the bottom third of 48 countries in these sectors: environment, economy, household, urban and resilience. The Philippines, in particular, also scored low in agriculture and governance.
Last Nov. 24, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia rounded up representatives from the seven sectors and from there, he created management units. Each were given performance indicators, key result areas, specific constituencies and water management teams.
The teams were then tasked to meet with Pernia every quarter in 2018 to sustain progress.
The summits mentioned above also came up with guide documents on water management. Note that the documents were prepared by a dean from UP Los Baños (UPLB). The dean would also be an integral part of each of the sector’s three-person core management team.
While the dean will provide research and insights, the government official in the team will take charge of implementation. The private sector member, meanwhile, will track the progress and offer recommendations from the sector’s constituency.
Below shows the three-person core management team per sector, with valuable support coming from UPLB vice chancellor Rex Demapelis and professor Patricia Sanchez:
From the agriculture sector: DA, Dean A. Elepano, former Secretary William Paz
From the environment sector: DENR, Dean D. Eslava, Rex Cruz
From the economic sector: Neda, Dean I. Pabuayon, Anda Bolinas
From the household sector: DILG, Dean F. P. Lansigan, former Secretary Elisea Gozun
From the urban sector: DPWH, Dean R. Piadoso, Chris Ilagan
From the resilience sector: NDRRMC, DND, Dean W. Abasolo, Glenn Tobias
From the governance sector: NWRB, DENR, Dean A.C. Rola, Dondi Alikpala
With better governance through this new approach of tripartite management teams and overall direction from Pernia, it is expected that competent water management will finally be seen.