A BILL establishing a Department of Water should be included on the agenda of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) for the 18th Congress, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, a LEDAC member, told BusinessWorld that he will support this move. “Yes,” he said in a phone message when asked if he will support Mr. Nograles’s proposal.
Speaking with reporters at the Palace on Monday night, Mr. Nograles said that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has “approved in principle” the executive order (EO) that would harmonize all water policy-making agencies under the Office of the President.
“Tingin ko kailangan na ilagay sa LEDAC because of the fragmented approach that we have. (“I think we need the measure to be a LEDAC priority because of the fragmented approach that we have.”) Kasi ‘yung EO na gagawin natin can be superseded and amended by the next administration… (“Any EO can be superseded and amended by the next administration…”) They may just overrule or cancel that EO then we go back to our old ways,” he said.
“With a Department of Water, you have to pass through Congress. So ideally it has to be institutionalized… We hope we will have allies in both Houses of Congress para hindi lamang itong pinu-push natin na Department of Water ang possible na maisulong at maipasa natin (in order to pass other legislation, not just the Department of Water,”) he said.
Senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV filed last month Senate Bill No. 2216 calling for the creation of a Department of Water that will “help avoid a repeat of the water shortage” in Metro Manila.
On the draft EO, Mr. Nograles said: “So the draft has been given to the Office of the Executive Secretary. [It’s] already for vetting. So finalization na lang ‘yun ng draft, so pipirmahan na lang ‘yun ng Pangulo. (The draft is being finalized for signature).”
Asked about details of the EO, he said, “Basically we want to create a master plan in terms of managing our water resources. But in order to create a master plan, we have to get everybody, all the water sector bodies, offices, agencies, and departments to get together and coordinate with each other. The best thing to do that is to put them under the Office of the President, so pending Congress passing the Department of Water (bill), this is the fastest way that we can resolve all our water resource issues and concerns.”
The water body that the EO hopes to create will also take part in reviewing the government’s agreements with water concessionaires.
“Yes kasama ‘yan sa mag-rereview (the body will be involved in the contract review),” he said, referring to the order of the President to have all government contracts reviewed.
He also said that no employees or departments will be displaced or dissolved when the EO takes effect. — Arjay L. Balinbin