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COMMENTARY

What next after Boracay?

05:08 AM April 10, 2018

Talk is cheap, but action is needed. We are already seeing decisive action on the water issues in Boracay but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The bigger problem that should be addressed is water security.

Consistent with President Duterte’s commitment to the Agri-Fisheries Alliance to address the immense water challenge when he was still a presidential candidate, action is being undertaken today. Seven peace summits have been conducted in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao addressing the issues of five different sectors identified by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) needing priority water actions.

ADB-identified sectors. Each peace summit resulted in priority actions for the protection of our waters. To prevent a ningas kugon attitude (leaving a task unfinished), a tripartite management team was created for each of the five sectors, as well as for the governance and agriculture sectors.

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Last November 20, the tripartite management teams were formed to identify priority water actions for 2018 as well as monitor and improve on these actions.

Three clusters. The sectors were grouped into three clusters.

The first cluster will address governance, environment and resilience. On the governance side, the goal is to come up with a priority legislative measure creating a central body that will coordinate 34 disjointed water-related government agencies. In the meantime, the National Water Resources Board will be strengthened by getting an increased budget.

For environment, the integrated water resource management approach will be implemented in our 18 major river basins and 143 critical water sheds.

For resilience, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council will be strengthened. In addition, there will be an integration of water-based disaster risk reduction and mitigation plans, with emphasis on community-based training in local governments.

The second cluster is composed of domestic and urban. For domestic, a priority is to significantly improve information and education communication (IEC) on water and sanitation in communities. In addition, the installation of rain water collection systems should be improved. For the urban side, the building code requirement for rain water harvesting should be enforced. This can start in new buildings and in public structures, schools and public markets. The public-private partnership guidelines should be improved to motivate more structures and better systems for water and waste water.

The third cluster is composed of agriculture and economics. For agriculture, the rehabilitation and construction of small-scale irrigation should be prioritized because it has the best return of investment and the quickest turnaround time. Aside from the rehabilitation of mangroves to prevent flooding, the potential of sea farming initiatives and land aquaculture should also be identified and promoted systematically. For economics, economically optimal water technologies, especially in capturing rain water should be identified, promoted and implemented.

Will the above be just talk, or will it result in the needed priority water actions? We will know during the planned July, September and December review monitoring and improvement sessions with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

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