With the national government already taking steps to address water supply problems as a result of El Niño, senatorial aspirant Francis Tolentino on Monday said that proposals to resolve the water crisis should involve and empower local government units “that are at the frontline of this problem.”
Tolentino said he agreed with proposals floated regarding the establishment of an “apex water body” to coordinate water resource management policies and programs in the country, but stressed that any law creating such an agency should also empower LGUs so that they can take a more proactive role in ensuring their constituents have ample supplies of the precious resource.
“As with any urgent issue affecting the country, whether it be disaster response or peace and order, coordination between the national government and our LGUs is critical to ensure that the problem is properly addressed,” stressed the former mayor and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair.
Tolentino revealed that a 1998 Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and National Water Resources Board (NWRB) study projected that nine major cities, including Metro Manila, Davao, Baguio, Angeles and Bacolod, are already or may experience water constraint by 2025 due to resource degradation, increase in population, and rapid urbanization.
“Ngayon pa lang, nararamdaman na ang problema sa Maynila. We have to really work to ensure that this problem does not affect other cities in the country as well.”
“Kailangan talaga magusap at magtulungan ang LGUs at national government. I remember reading a few years back that water is a local problem that requires a local response, and as a former mayor, I can understand that viewpoint, kasi pag may problema sa patubig, and unang tinatakbuhan ng mga tao ay ang mayor,” explained Tolentino.
“So any law creating this water agency should factor in the major role LGUs play in water resource management. It should treat LGUs like partners because the LGUs are at the frontlines.”
Tolentino said that one of his priorities if he were to be elected to the Senate would be to ensure that all national laws would take into consideration the role of local governments in their implementation.
According to Tolentino, “kailangan kasi tingnan ang batas sa mata ng mga LGUs natin. Kaya ba nila gawin ang role nila? May pondo ba sila para gawin and sinasabi ng batas? These are things that should be given more weight.”
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles last week revealed that cabinet agencies in a high-level interagency meeting on water security had agreed to endorse two draft bills for approval and submission to the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), one of which would establish a government agency that “will act as the apex body for the water resources sector.”
“This agency will consolidate and reconcile water-related policy, planning, and programming mandates of the different agencies involved in water resource management. It will likewise ensure the efficient allocation of water resources across sectors,” said the Palace official.