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Albay Rep. Joey Salceda on Sunday called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to issue an executive order directing specific government agencies to initiate measures to mitigate the impact of the El Niño phenomenon, which is expected to persist until 2024 and cause a water crisis.
In a statement, Salceda welcomed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s creation of the Office of Water Management, which is tasked to manage the country’s water resources.
“The first step is to acknowledge the problem, which he has by being clear about the existence of a water crisis. Now it is time to issue a related directive to mitigate the impact of El Nino,” Salceda said.
The congressman called for the development of small scale irrigation systems that can be set up quickly.
He also urged speeding up the construction of small water impounding projects, and to remind barangays of their obligations to set up rainwater catchment facilities through the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Salceda also called for agricultural measures aimed at mitigating the adverse effects of drought, including increasing cropping intensity, optimizing unit area productivity, decreasing water duty and diversifying the cropping system. Home gardening using pots and recycled containers should be encouraged, he added.
The Department of Trade and Industry, Food and Drug Administration andthe Department of Agriculture must monitor prices of basic and prime commodities, agricultural products, foods and drugs, he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources should look at fuel and fodder tree plantation, protection of catchments, watershed management, run-off storage and recycling, and rehabilitation of watershed areas.
Congress, he said, is likely to pass the Department of Water Resources Management (DWRM) bill right in time for Marcos’s State of the Nation Address by May 8.
AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee, author of House Bill No. 2880, seeks to create a department that will consolidate all agencies involved in water resources.
The DWRM will:
• Implement necessary policy and resource reforms with respect to the management of all water
• Monitor and evaluate compliance with the national goals relating to water, irrigation, sewage and sanitation;
• Formulate a national updated road map to address the water, sewage, and sanitation requirements of the state; and
• Improve conservation of water and increase system efficiency.
This measure is in line with President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s pronouncement on his administration’s “overall plan” to improve the country’s water resources management.
“There are many agencies that are concerned when it comes to water management. So we have to make it more cohesive. That’s why we put up the Office of Water Management, which… will be attached to the Office of the President and with DENR,” the President said in a recent interview, pending the passage of a bill creating the DWRM.
Lee emphasized the need for the government to urgently roll out mechanisms and infrastructure to help agricultural workers amid the looming water crisis.
“Even without El Niño, many of our farmers already suffer from the effects of water shortage. There are farmers who have long been burdened by the problem of poor irrigation. Now that it is the dry season, many of them are seeing a reduction in their production,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.
If passed into law, the measure will set aside P2 billion from anyavailable funds for the organization of the DWRM and its initial operations. Thereafter, funds to carry out the powers and functions of the department will be appropriated in the General Appropriations Act.
On Friday, Sevilla David, National Water Resources Board executive director, said the NWRB is now readying contingency plans to deal with the El Nino.
“We at the NWRB are already prepared with our contingency plan or mitigating measures. One of them is the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System doing its part, such as the preparation for standby deep wells,” he said.
“They have these so-called augmentation measures, such as the recovery of leaks and treatment,” he added.
El Niño, a weather phenomenon characterized by below-normal rainfall that can lead to dry spells and drought, is expected to last until 2024. — Rio N. Araja
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