Press Release
July 28, 2010

Zubiri proposes creation of Congressional Oversight Committee
to address looming water crisis

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri today proposed the immediate creation of a Congressional Oversight Committee to thresh out solutions to the looming water crisis in relation to the policies set out under the 15-year old National Water Crisis Act of 1995.

Zubiri said there was a need to review whether or not previous administrations fully implemented the National Water Crisis Act of 1995 (Republic Act 8041), noting how government seemed to have been caught off guard when water supply took a dramatic drop beginning late last year.

"We need to find out what happened to this law. Was it ever implemented? How did the previous governments implement it? Now that a water crisis is looming, we have to find out the root of the problem," he stressed.

Under the National Water Crisis Act of 1995, a Joint Executive-Legislative Water Crisis Commission was created to undertake nationwide consultations on a possible occurrence of a water crisis - signs of which had started to slowly show as early as 15 years ago - and an in-depth and detailed study and review of the country's water supply and distribution culture.

It was also created to recommend measures that will ensure continuous and effective monitoring of the entire water supply and distribution system of the country. It was supposed to have submitted a comprehensive report on its findings before it ceased functus officio.

"What happened to the Commission's recommendations? What did the government do with it? Were the recommendations implemented or ignored? We need to know the answers so we can come up with a thorough and effective solution to the crisis," Zubiri said.

The Commission was composed of the Executive Secretary as chairman, with the secretaries of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the chairmen of the appropriate Senate and House committees, as designated by the leaders of both Houses of Congress, as well as a representative of the minority of each Chamber, as members.

Under the law, it was declared unlawful for any person to destroy, damage or interfere with any canal, raceway, ditch, lock, pier, inlet, crib, bullhead, dam, gate, service, reservoir, aqueduct, water mains, water distribution pipes, conduit, pipes, wire benchmark, monument or other works, appliance, machinery buildings, or property of any water utility entity, whether public or private.

It was also illegal to do any malicious act which shall injuriously affect the quantity or quality of water or sewerage flow of any waterworks and/or sewerage system, or the supply, conveyance, measurement or regulation thereof, including the prevention of, or interfere with any authorized person engaged in the discharge of duties connected with water supply and quality control.

Any person or persons who prevent, obstruct, and interfere with the survey, works, and construction of access road and water mains and distribution network and any related works of any utility entities shall also be held criminally liable.

Any person found to have committed the abovementioned offenses shall be punished by imprisonment of 6 months to 1 years and a fine of not exceeding double the amount of the value of the water stolen or the value of the damaged facilities.

Zubiri said Congress should hasten the creation of the Congressional Oversight Committee so it could convene the soonest time possible and come up with measures on how to resolve the problem and ensure a continuous water supply not only in Metro Manila but in the entire country as well.

"Water is life. We need to act fast. We need to get our acts together as soon as we can to prevent the problem from getting worse. We cannot afford any delays," he stressed.

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