(PNA photo by Alfred Frias)

MANILA – The bill that seeks to create the Department of Water Services (DWS) received backing from President Ferdinand R. Marcos who has renewed his call to create a government body that will manage water resources.

Senator Grace Poe has expressed confidence in the passage of Senate Bill No. (SB) 102, or the National Water Resource Management Act, as “no less than the Chief Executive has sounded the alarm over our precarious water supply situation, especially in the urban areas.”

“This is a good impetus to get things moving to have a Department of Water Services,” Poe said in her statement on Tuesday, referring to the bill that she authored.

SB No. 102 that will establish the DWS and the Water Regulatory Commission (WRC) was among the 30 measures approved during Marcos' first Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting on October 10.

Poe said water use, management, and sources need urgent focus amid the supply shortage experienced by consumers.

“We need to wake up to the looming water crisis before supply runs dry,” she said.

Some customers of Maynilad Water Services Inc. have been experiencing regular service interruption since March.

The water concessionaire covers the cities of Manila (all but portions of San Andres and Sta. Ana); Quezon City (west of San Juan River, West Avenue, Edsa, Congressional, Mindanao Avenue, northern part starting from the Districts of Holy Spirit and Batasan Hills); Makati (west of South Super Highway), Caloocan, Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, Navotas and Malabon, all in Metro Manila; and the cities of Cavite, Bacoor and Imus, and the towns of Kawit, Noveleta, and Rosario in Cavite.

The proposed DWS, Poe said, would be the “primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, monitoring and administrative entity of the executive branch of the government.”

The independent and quasi-judicial body WRC will set the policy for supply, sewerage, and septage management; issue licenses; set, review and approve rates; review and suspend contracts; initiate investigations on erring officials through its quasi-judicial nature; and ensure that the welfare of consumers is prioritized.

“Traditionally regarded as a free right, water is undervalued, wasted, and being depleted too fast. The situation calls for a thirsty solution that we hope our bill can offer,” Poe added.

During the recent LEDAC meeting, President Marcos said the problem in the country's water supply needs an urgent solution.

“The problem is too large that we need to have a team of experts directing the 20 different concerned agencies under one roof to ensure that they would manage our water resources efficiently,” he said.

The country is currently relying on the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), the government agency tasked to manage and regulate all local water resources and services.

NWRB integrates and coordinates all water-related activities that have social, environmental, and economic impacts. (PNA)