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Duterte signs AO boosting water infrastructure

In the three-page order signed on Aug. 26, Duterte directed all agencies to prioritize and complete review and approval of infrastructure flagship projects on water security, strictly within the processing time and deadlines established by law. - STAR/ File
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) – August 29, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has signed an administrative order that will expedite the review and approval of infrastructure flagship projects on water security in the country.

In the three-page order signed on Aug. 26, Duterte directed all agencies to prioritize and complete review and approval of infrastructure flagship projects on water security, strictly within the processing time and deadlines established by law.

“If a government office or agency fails to approve or disapprove an original application or request for issuance of license, clearance, permit, certification or authorization within the prescribed processing time, where all the required documents have been submitted and fees paid, and no reason or explanation in writing was provided therefore, the said application or request shall be deemed approved,” the memo read.

For this purpose, Duterte directed the Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs and Projects and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to directly coordinate with the head of the relevant issuing agency to establish, in a manner consistent with law, ways to expedite the issuance of pertinent licenses, clearances, permits, certifications or authorization.

Infrastructure flagship projects on water security refer to the identified water-resource projects in the list of infrastructure flagship projects approved by the NEDA as of Feb.17, 2020. It shall also cover other similar projects that will be approved and identified as such by the national government pursuant to relevant laws, rules and regulations.

Duterte noted how “persistent low water levels in existing reservoirs especially those in servicing Metro Manila, along with increasing demand and competing use over limited water supply call for the development of new water resources, and acceleration of water infrastructure development as an overarching strategy in pursuit of water security.”

He also cited the development of water infrastructure as an important approach in dealing with the challenges of climate change through innovative interventions and technologies.

“Whereas, agency processes and procedures have routinely and excessively delayed infrastructure flagship projects on water security resulting in increased costs and hampering the delivery of clean, stable, adequate and affordable water to the detriment of the Filipino people,” the President said in his AO.

“There is a need for the national government to pursue institutional reforms such as streamlining processes of concerned agencies to encourage and guide investments in water supply, sewerage and sanitation, and expedite the approval and processing of infrastructure flagship projects on water security, while respecting property rights and protecting public safety and the environment,” Duterte’s memo read.

In his past speeches, Duterte has publicly expressed disappointment over private water concessionaires that he accused of “screwing” Filipinos.

He threatened to file economic sabotage and to expropriate the firms in favor of the government.

In his last State of the Nation Address, he mentioned the allegedly faulty 1997 water agreements while he lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for defending ABS-CBN, accusing the opposition senator as one of the framers of the concessionaire agreements which Drilon has denied repeatedly.

The Office of the President also recognized that investments in adequate infrastructure are necessary to fulfill the commitment of the Philippines under the Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.

It also pushed for the acceleration of infrastructure development in water resources which is one of the key pillars under the Philippine Development Plan of 2017-2022.

As such, the Anti-Red Tape Authority shall review existing laws, executive issuances and local ordinances and recommend the repeal of the same if deemed outdated, redundant, and adds undue regulatory burden to the transacting public.

ARTA is also mandated to recommend policies, processes and systems to improve regulatory management to increase the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of business permitting and licensing agencies.

“The ARTA shall ensure that the local permits and barangay clearances related to infrastructure flagship projects on water security shall be applied, issued, and obtained strictly in accordance with the prescribed processing time under Republic Act 9485 as amended,” it added.