The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will ramp-up efforts to improve the country’s water supply situation, amidst lingering shortage concerns over the El Niño climate pattern and growing population demand.

Aside from working with other government agencies and the private sector to identify potential sources of surface water for over 1,400 barangays at higher risk of dry spells, the DENR’s newly-created Water Resources Management Office (WRMO) is set to release an Integrated Water Resources Management Plan that will account for all water resources in the country and set directions on optimizing the use of existing supply through impoundment, treatment, and recycling.

“The solution to our problems starts with fixing the disconnected and fragmented management of water by more than a dozen agencies of government,” said Environment Secretary Antonia Loyzaga, noting that aside from the DENR, several other government agencies and other entities are involved in managing water resources for a variety of uses such as power generation, irrigation and household distribution. These agencies include the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, the Local Water Utilities Administration, over 500 water districts, the Laguna Lake Development Authority, and the National Water Resources Board. Aside from these, there are thousands of private water providers primarily servicing residential communities nationwide.

“There are long-standing institutional issues which we now have a strong chance of solving and this unlocks some of the barriers in managing water. It also opens the possibility of coordinating projects between agencies to enter with more efficient programs like the construction of multi-use dams and reservoirs,” she added.

On top of the creation of the WRMO, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said in his State of the Nation Address that his administration will give a "special focus" on improving water security, with efforts that should be "cohesive, centralized, and systematic." Around PHP14.6 Billion has been allocated in the 2023 national budget for water supply projects. Further, a portion of the PHP276 Billion flood control budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways will be repurposed for initiatives such as offline storage to address multiple needs for irrigation, power generation, industry and domestic uses.

The WRMO is a transitory body pending the creation of the Department of Water Resource Management which is covered by several bills pending before both houses of Congress, including House Bill 2880, authored by AGRI Party-list Representative Wilbert Lee, Senate Bill 1021 filed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, and Senate Bill 102, filed by Senator Grace Poe. Meanwhile, the National Economic and Development Authority submitted the revised draft executive version of the bill to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office. The bill was referred to the Senate Committees on Public Services; Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation; and Finance. ###