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Duterte, drugs and water

/ 03:20 AM October 13, 2016

President Duterte should establish his legacy on two fronts: drugs and water. Drugs is obvious. But water is also important because it is part of the biggest global challenge today: the world’s water wars.

Last July 14, National Geographic’s Flora Parker wrote: “Underground water is pumped so aggressively around the world that land is sinking, civil wars are being waged, and agriculture is being transformed… Around the world, alarms are being sounded about the depletion of underground water supply. The United Nations predicts a global shortfall of water by 2030.”

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Economist Richard Damania of the World Bank states that without adequate water supply, economic growth in the most stressed parts of the world will decline by 6% of the gross domestic product.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez knows this. She immediately ordered the creation of a National Water Roadmap soon after taking office.

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Our farmers today face continuing losses due to water shortage. Countless children suffer diseases because of unsafe water. Environmentalists rail against fossil fuels because environment-friendly hydropower is not being properly harnessed.

If Duterte effectively manages our national water situation, his legacy will also be for the world as it faces the dangerous global water crisis.

In 1999, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) attempted to formulate a national water plan. Not much happened because of inadequate top government support. In 2010, the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) worked on a water roadmap. However, this focused mainly on a network to supply water to different sectors.

NWRB executive director Sevillo David Jr. cited important elements missing in this roadmap. Examples are inadequate emphasis on water resource management, water allocation, structure development to collect and preserve water, hydropower for energy, and educating critical sectors on wise water use.

For her part, Secretary Lopez sees the link between deforestation and water scarcity. She has ordered bamboo planting in one million denuded hectares by 2022. Knowing the complexity of the problem, she has prioritized a comprehensive water roadmap formulation.

Last Sept. 14, David presided over the first water roadmap meeting. Attendees were mostly division chiefs from a few water-related agencies.

But the water crisis requires much more than this. Examples are the Department of Agriculture (DA) because of the water needed by farmers, the Department of Health (DOH) to prevent water-related diseases, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to prevent water waste, the Department of Energy (DOE) to harness hydropower, the Department of Education (DepEd) to educate our youth on proper water use, and the Local Government Units (LGUs) for effective water disposal.

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Most of the proposed amendments to the 1976 Water Code can be implemented through political will and without the need for long Congressional approval. Mr. Duterte can make this happen, as he did with the Freedom of Information via executive action.

The president must identify a water-positive initiative and partner this with his drug-negative thrust. He must lead in addressing this water challenge.

Mr. Duterte himself must mobilize the approximately 30 water-related government agencies to address the water crisis. Six years from now, he should be remembered not only for his national legacy in fighting drugs, but also for his global legacy in successfully addressing the water crisis.

(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or call telefax 8522112.)

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