Regulation better than promotion
For water, regulation is often superior to promotion. Since farmers use 80 percent of our water, it is critical that their advocacy on water conservation and use be implemented. Today, much of this remains just talk, with very little action.
The Oxford dictionary defines promotion as “an activity that supports or encourages a cause, venture or aim.” Regulation is “a rule or directive made and maintained by authority.”
When the leaders of the Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) met with President Duterte on the past administration’s mismanagement of our water situation, they asked him to take action on the water crisis with “rules and directives” and the President committed to do so.
There has already been much promotion on saving and using water effectively. But without the government’s regulatory authority to implement these activities, very little has been accomplished. Examples are the 5.7 million hectares of forest lands that have been denuded; the decrease in our mangroves from 500,000 to 130,000 hectares; 4 percent of our rainwater collected today (compared to India’s 60 percent); floods and droughts continuing to cause irreparable damage, and 73 people dying every day from water-related causes.
On Jan. 20, a tripartite steering committee on water roadmap and summit was formed to address the water crisis. This is composed of the legislature, the executive (DENR, DA, DPWH, DILG, NEDA, the Cabinet secretary) and the private sector (AFA, PCCI).
Five pre-summits in Davao, Bohol and Pampanga have been held: Agriculture, Environment, Economy, Household and Urban sectors. The last two pre-summits on Water Resilience and Governance will be held in Manila on July 12.
What has been voiced so far is appreciation on the promotion of good water management by both the private and public sectors. However, all agreed that the results of this promotion had been far from satisfactory. The participants are now asking for strong regulation from a committed government to have “rules and directives made and maintained by authority.” Noncompliance would mean penalties which today are non-existent.
What follows are three examples from the pre-summits:
•Rainwater harvesting: Our dismal 4-percent rain harvesting rate hardly improved over the years. Some government officials said the government did not have enough money for this. But it is not money that is mostly needed, but strong political will. There should be a presidential directive so that a rain harvesting system will be required for any new building that will be put up from now on. This can be done with an added provision in the building code.
At the July 5 pre-summit, former Environment Secretary Elisea Gozun suggested that all prospective government facilities should be required to install water-efficient fixtures. Examples are waterless urinals and showers that will capture used water and reuse this for functions such as flushing toilets.
-Water availability: Today, the National Water Resources Board issues Certificates of Water Availability. Instead of just being voluntary, they should be made mandatory for all development projects. This certificate should include not only water on-site, but also guaranteed water availability from off-site delivered by water service providers or the government.
There is the disastrous case of several government houses being built for Yolanda victims which today remain unoccupied because there is no water in the area. Since no certificate of water availability was required, we wasted precious time and money at the victims’ expense.
•Porous materials: When floods come, water can often not be absorbed by the ground because of concrete overlays. This water instead goes to already overloaded drains, which causes more floods and wasted by flowing into the rivers and sea. Instead, porous material such as paving blocks or permeable cement will allow the water to seep into the ground and increase our severely depleted water table levels. This flood water now in the water table can be used during droughts.
These are but some examples when regulation is superior to promotion. President Duterte’s commitment to addressing our water crisis, through regulation and presidential directives, is the answer that our suffering water stakeholders have been waiting for.
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