Water crisis, river basins and governance

July 3, 2017 at 10:33

Water crisis, river basins and governance

By:  – @inquirerdotnet | 02:07 AM June 27, 2017

To address our water crisis (where an average of 73 people die every day due to water-related causes) it is imperative we implement an approach successfully used in many countries: Integrated Water Basin Management (IRBM). It is poor governance in not supporting this approach that is a main cause of our water troubles today.

The tripartite (legislature- executive branch- private sector) Steering Committee of the National Water Roadmap and Summit that was created in Jan. 20 in Malacañang has been very active in identifying the causes and possible solutions for our water crisis. Seven pre-summits in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao have solicited with the technical support of the University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB). This is guided by the National Economic Development Authority and the National Water Resources Board.

The pre-summits in Davao and Bohol have identified the non-implementation of the water basin approach as a major stumbling block.

Water basin

The Integrated Water Basin Management (IWBM) is described by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as follows: “ IWBM rests on the principle that naturally functioning river basin ecosystems including, accompanying wetland and groundwater systems, are the source of freshwater.”

Two key elements brought up by pre-summit participants are identified as critical for IWBM success. One is the need for unity among our thirty water-related government agencies that are poorly coordinated: “Integration of policies, decisions, and costs across sectoral interests such as industry, agriculture, urban development, navigation, fisheries management and conservation including, poverty reduction strategies.”

Another recommendation from the participants is the necessity of multisector representation. WWF states this as an essential component: “Active participation by all relevant stakeholders in well informed and transparent planning and decision making.”

We believe that poverty reduction should be a main objective of the Philippine water basin approach. In addition, since each basin covering many water sheds crosses provincial and regional boundaries, it should focus on its own local concerns, instead of responding to non-applicable national guidelines and giving in to possible turf driven political considerations.


Is the IRBM implemented properly in the Philippines? Definitely not. The pre-summit findings have revealed “inconvenient truths.”

There are master plans for our 18 major basins done by competent professionals and properly funded by national and international organizations.

However, the entire river basin budget is only P22 million pesos for 2017. It is the same for 2018. This amounts to only P920,000 per basin. As a result, each basin has practically no equipment. Worse, there is no single government person attending to this on a full time basis.

We asked newly appointed river basin director Antonio Dano, what is the minimum annual budget he needs to make the river basin approach work. He said P305 million, or an average of P 17 million for each basin. However, he was not able to give this number because his late appointment prevented him from doing so. It is hoped that Congress and the Department of Budget and Management will make this correction in the coming budget deliberations.

Desiring an independent opinion, we asked former UPLB Chancellor Rex Victor Cruz on Dano’s plan and budget recommendation. Incidentally, Cruz led the formulation of four water basin master plans and is one of four UPLB professors who formed part of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the others are Juan Paulhin, Felino Lansigan, and Rodel Lasco.)

Cruz agreed with Dano that the missing element for much needed success is the appropriate government support and budget for the river basin initiative. With the 18 completed river basin master plans and the existing multisector river basin councils that have long been asking for government support, what are we waiting for?

Source: http://business.inquirer.net/232080/water-crisis-river-basins-governance

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