THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it will open up 112 more water projects for public-private investment this year.

“Last year, we started with… announcing 135 water projects … We announce 112 more,” Environment Undersecretary Carlos Primo C. David said in a forum on Tuesday.

Mr. David added that the sites being put up for private-public partnerships (PPPs) hold water rights via the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“You can find NIA facilities in almost all provinces,” he said, putting the number of NIA sites at 505.

Mr. David said that the new PPP list involves a combined capacity of 100 to 170 million liters per day.

“They are a little bit smaller (than the first list of projects), but there is excess water in these facilities that can be converted into potable supply,” he said.

The largest number of the sites are located in Calabarzon with 20, followed by Bicol Region (18) and Eastern Visayas (15).

Last year, the DENR offered 135 water projects to private investors to increase access to drinking water and expand hydropower capacity.

Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga has said that the projects will help mitigate the threat from El Niño, which is projected to affect 63 provinces with dry spells or droughts this year.

In October, the DENR and the NIA signed a memorandum of agreement to repurpose surplus irrigation water.

The NIA said that the surplus water may now be used for power production, bulk water supply, aquaculture, recreation, and tourism.

Executive Order No. 22 created the Water Resources Management Office, which was tasked with integrating and harmonizing all government efforts and regulatory activity to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water resources.

“We also tried to package all these projects as much as we could. So that the potential investors… would have an easier time evaluating (the projects),” he said.

Mr. David told reporters that more than 60 water companies have expressed interest in investing in the DENR’s initial list of 135 water projects.

Meanwhile, the DENR is planning to harness water within protected land and national parks to serve communities.

“There’s a lot of water in protected areas in national parks… so (we) are now preparing guidelines for development within critical areas like protected areas. I think we can develop the water there (with minimal) impact in terms of deforestation and loss of biodiversity,” Mr. David said on the sidelines.

He said that the water to be harnessed will also generate revenue to protect the critical sites. — Adrian H. Halili