Press Release
December 11, 2019

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's Opening Statement
Public services hearing on water agency bill

Good morning. This hearing is called to order.

In consideration are eight pending measures-four of which seeks to establish a regulatory body called a "Water Regulatory Commission" filed by Senators Drilon, Recto, Revilla and myself; and another four which seeks to establish an agency to manage water resources called the "Department of Water Resources" filed by Senators Lapid, Pacquiao, Dela Rosa and Tolentino.

We will discuss these bills in the context of an inconvenient truth: millions of Filipino households-and not just in the Greater Manila area but more so in many regions across the country-still have no access to safe water nor to sanitary toilet facilities. So much more suffer through yearly debilitating droughts.

To make matters worse, data pointed to a potential national crisis. The water-per-capita situation in the Philippines points to an impending water security issue. World Bank data in 2000 showed that the country's water availability per capita stood at 1,907 cubic meter per year. This means that the country is already below the international water stress threshold and is fast approaching the water scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meter per year.

The first question we face today is thus: "Who is supposed to take care of this? Which agency has the overall responsibility to address water issues?"

There are over 30 agencies tasked to manage and oversee various aspects of the country's water resources. In addition, there are 574 water districts, 1,500 LGU water utilities which also regulate water service provisions in these areas, 500 rural water supply associations, 200 cooperatives, and 900 assorted private firms.

These entities appear to work only on their own areas of concern resulting in a highly fragmented approach to water. This fragmentation has had significant implications in the effective and adequate delivery of water and sanitation services.

Since water is a single resource, we came to the conclusion that managing the resource should be systematic and not compartmentalized.

Compounding this issue is the low coverage of the economic regulatory mantle. There are estimated 4,700 water utilities in the country, of which 2,200 are small utilities. Only 27 percent of the total utilities, mostly water districts and private utilities, are subject to economic regulation, leaving 73 percent without guidelines for tariff setting.

Improving water governance and management of resources is the permanent and long-term solution to stave off the national water crisis.

At this point, we will need immediate and effective solutions to the mounting water crisis. This hearing is also a venue for the call for a masterplan to be proposed by our existing water agencies and possibly a review of our existing water arrangements-the two biggest water concessionaires included.

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