The passion of Sen. Legarda | Inquirer Business

The passion of Sen. Legarda

Last February 6, Senate climate change committee chair Loren Legarda delivered a passionate speech on water.

She gave alarming statistics, citing “There are still 8 million Filipinos who lack access to safe water, and 25 million lack access to improved sanitation. Eighteen Filipinos die daily from diarrhea and water-borne diseases, while 55 Filipinos die daily from diseases caused by lack of proper sewage and adequate sanitation facilities.”

Analysis. Our agriculture uses 80 percent of water. When there are floods caused largely by 5.7-million denuded hectares of former forest lands, water is everywhere. In this case, water destroys our crops. When drought hits, which is becoming more often because of climate change, water is nowhere.


The National Irrigation Authority (NIA) has an annual budget of more than P25 billion. The money allows it to cover thousands of hectares for irrigation, yet wrong priorities sometimes kick in.


Furthermore, sans any integrated water program, we collect only 4 percent of our rainwater.

The Asian Water Development Output, a joint effort of the Asian Development Bank and Asia-Pacific Water Forum, states: “These water problems are caused primarily by inappropriate management practices, rather than physical scarcity of water.”

In the National Water Security Index (NWSI) covering 48 countries, the Philippines is at 38, much lower than Indonesia’s 27 and Malaysia’s 8. What should be done?

Legarda’s answer: “We need to craft a roadmap for sustainable water use, and consolidate all water agencies to address issues such as overlapping and fragmented regulation of water supply and services.”

Today, there is no roadmap to speak of. Furthermore, there is no entity that can consolidate the more than 30 water-related agencies that hardly talk to each other.

Action. We suggest four recommendations that will translate Legarda’s rhetoric into reality with effective implementation.


First, with the magnitude of the water problem, President Rodrigo Duterte himself must lead in addressing the crisis. He should do this in the same way he has been taking the drug problem by the horns.

During the Senate interpellation, Sen. Vicente Sotto III commented that the number of people who died from the water crisis far exceeded the number of extrajudicial killings.

Senator Franklin Drilon lamented that water has not been given the priority attention it deserves. Senators Cynthia Villar and Richard Gordon explained the initiatives they did for organizations like the Red Cross. These can be easily replicated, but are woefully lacking in terms of national scale.

Fortunately, at a January 20 meeting in Malacañang, the President’s role started to become clear. The Cabinet Secretary and the chiefs of the departments of Environment, Agriculture, Local Government and the National Economic and Development Authority gave their strong commitment to the formulation of a water roadmap and a National Water Summit this coming June.

Second, directions should now be translated for the sake of accountable entities and the proper budget support must be given. The proposals must be submitted by each relevant government agency to the Department of Budget and Management by April this year, in time for the drafting of the 2018 budget.

Third, and most important, indicators for success or failure in 2017 should be specified, using 2016 as baseline.

For example, a UP Los Baños recommendation that Small Water Impounding Projects (SWIPs) should be promoted is laudable. But these should be translated into specific SWIP targets that show a significant increase from the 2016 baseline. In addition, increased targets should also be made for repairing the currently defective and neglected SWIPs being used per province.

Fourth, since Einstein has defined insanity as expecting something different from the same things being done, each government water-related agency should immediately submit different initiatives to show their commitment to addressing the water crisis.

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With no less than the President’s political will and guidance, crystallized by the Cabinet Secretary’s specific directions and monitoring mechanisms, Legarda’s passion to address the crisis will result in an action-oriented remedy to the sad state of water in our country.

TAGS: Business, economy, Loren Legarda, News, water

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