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National Economic and Development Authority

Sound Governance for Water Security: NEDA underscores importance of proposed DWR, WRC

MANILA – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) underscored the importance of establishing a Department of Water (DWR) and a Water Regulatory Commission (WRC) to integrate the country’s governance and regulation of water resources and achieve water security.

A policy note released on May 17, 2024 stressed the need to address institutional fragmentation and improve infrastructure planning and management of the country’s water sector.

“In light of the challenges our country is experiencing under a fast-changing climate, the push for sound water governance is more urgent than ever before. As outlined in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, our strategies are aimed at strengthening water security, ecological integrity, and resilience to hazards by improving water governance through integrated water resource management.

This move is also in line with the Integrated Water Resources Management Plan, which aims to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient water supply at any given time,” NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.

The policy note highlighted that while the Philippines is rich in water resources, it is challenged by the uneven access to water supply across different regions of the country.

Moreover, while 97.6 percent of Filipino families use improved drinking water sources and 84 percent have access to basic sanitation services, the Philippines is still behind other countries in Southeast Asia in terms of access to basic sanitation services. Access to these services is highest in Singapore (100%) followed by Malaysia (99.7%), Vietnam (96%), Brunei (94%), and Cambodia (88%).

In addition, population growth drives increasing demand for water, exacerbating the risk of water scarcity. Without significant changes in water management, parts of the Philippines are projected to endure extreme water stress by 2050, the policy note said.

Secretary Balisacan added that the overlapping and conflicting mandates across many areas in water governance hampers the ability of government to improve water service delivery and resource protection.

“Without a central agency responsible for water policy, there is a heavy reliance on ad hoc coordination. Conflicting priorities among agencies result in uncoordinated planning and strategies, as well as inconsistencies in the enforcement of water policies and standards,” Balisacan said.

“Our push for the creation of a central entity in the water sector will also help us institutionalize the collection and consolidation of water-related data that will help us produce more informed assessments and formulate smarter solutions in the utilization and management of our resources,” Balisacan said.

Such actions align with the country’s efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 6, which recognizes safe water, sanitation, and hygiene as basic human needs.

The copy of the full policy note can be found here: https://neda.gov.ph/policy-note-philippine-water-sector/