Senators seek creation of water agency after record floods

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 25 2020 02:09 PM

Rescue volunteers evacuate residents as flood waters submerge houses in Felicidad Village in Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal due to Typhoon Ulysses, November 12, 2020. Larry M. Piojo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Senators on Wednesday urged government to form a separate department to manage water resources following Typhoon Ulysses' historic floods that inundated large swaths of Luzon.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao, chairman of the Senate committee on public works, and Sen. Imee Marcos said they both have filed bills seeking to create a Department of Water Resources.

"Thirty-four plus ahensiya ang tumutugon sa tubig (There are 34 plus agencies handling water). It’s completely fragmented, confused and disorganized and very frequent it’s actually confrontational and contradictional," Marcos said during a Senate committee hearing.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier said government does not have the budget to create new agencies and urged lawmakers to focus next year's spending plan on the health and social sector as the pandemic persists.

"It will be a disaster because what we need are additional disaster or calamity funds, not additional bureaucracy. For every department you create you spend one and a half billion in terms of salary and MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) and you add to the bureaucracy," he told ANC's Headstart.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, meantime, pushed for the creation of a water resource management council.

The council will coordinate the plans of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) which oversees flood control projects, water regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), according to the former NIA board chairman.

"Para magkakaroon ng paguusap tapos 'yung pag-release ng tubig at least mayroong coordination 'yung nagiisip ng flood control, irrigation, at potable water," he said.

(So there can be a coordination, particularly in the release of water, between flood control, irrigation and potable water.)

"If they’re not talking to one another and there is no comprehensive approach eh 'di kanya-kanya tayo tapos kanya-kanyang gastos (every agency is for itself, including expenses)."

Marcos, meanwhile, urged dam operators to inspect their facilities, which she said have not been maintained.

"I know full well these dams have had no maintenance or repairs in the last few years. Walang budget ang NIA dyan. Ang NIA budget maliit na maliit kumpara sa dapat nilang gawin," she said.

(NIA doesn't have a budget for it. Its funds are too little for its supposed task.)

"Many of the portions of Angat and Magat are filled with boulders...and unfortunately NIA doesn’t have the budget to restore them."

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