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Hector Dayrit
Executive Director
The National Water Resources Board of the Philippines, Manila

1. Water resources planning and development

The main components of water resources management in the Philippines are vested in the mandates of the various government agencies that undertake most of the water resources programmes and projects in the country. There are more than thirty such agencies and offices, each dealing with a particular aspect of water resources development. Thus, there are separate agencies dealing mainly with each of the sectors of water supply, irrigation, hydropower, flood control, pollution, watershed management, etc. Each agency undertakes programmes and projects exclusively within its own field of responsibility. Project identification and planning are performed to meet the targets of the agency with little or no regard to the needs of others.

The sheer number of agencies involved brings about overlap of work and conflicts among agencies, which result in a fractional water management plan that does not adequately meet the requirements for sustainability. Little effort has been devoted to require each agency in the resource area to formulate its plans and make them consistent with the overall direction of the whole sector. As it is, it would seem that the various water agencies plan and perform their activities with little regard for the entire water resources management thrust.

Under this setting, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) was created in 1974 as the authoritative national organization to coordinate and integrate all activities in water resources development and management. Its main objective is to achieve scientific and orderly development and management of all the water resources of the Philippines consistent with the principles of optimum usage, conservation and protection to meet present and future needs. The mantle of authority of NWRB is derived from Presidential Decree (PD) 424 (NWRC Charter), PD 1067 (Water Code of the Philippines) and PD 1206 (Water Utilities).

Fragmentation among water-related agencies is evident in three areas of concern: water supply and distribution, economic and resource regulation, and planning and policy formulation.

The following agencies are involved in water supply and distribution:

Besides, there are also private systems, mostly residential areas and industrial parks which have their own systems installed, and which effectively regulate themselves, since there are no existing laws or regulations that govern performance of public utilities, i.e. tariff, or service efficiency.

The following agencies have the same function as resource regulators:

The local government units (LGUs) are also resource regulators, as the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160) devolved to local governments the power to discharge functions and responsibilities of national agencies and offices such as the provision of basic services and facilities including water supply systems (Section 17). It also gave the local governments the right to an equitable share of the proceeds from the use and development of national wealth and resources (which can be interpreted as to include water resources) within their respective territorial jurisdictions (Section 18). Thus, conflicts with respect to the powers of the water agencies including NWRB vis-à-vis the local governments have arisen.

As for planning and policy formulation, numerous agencies are involved, including the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), NWRB, LWUA and local government units. NEDA serves as the highest socio-economic planning and policymaking agency of government. It ensures that programmes of government agencies are consistent with the government programmes as laid out in the Medium-term Development Plan, the Long-term Development Plan (also known as Plan 21) and the Medium-term Public Investment Programme. Both planning documents incorporate water resources sector plans at the national and regional levels. There are also coordinating committees established to align development of water resources with the national strategies and fiscal direction of the government. The National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the National Power Corporation (NPC) and the Department of Energy are also involved in planning and water infrastructure development with respect to the requirements of their respective sectors.

For the past years, the national government has endeavoured to develop an efficient water resources management system. There have been several studies of paramount impact to the sector such as the NWRB Framework Plans and the Master Plan Study on Water Resources Management in the Philippines in 1998 as a bid to fully rationalize the sector and revitalize it in terms of the efficiency and sufficiency of its service and resources.

NWRB prepared regional as well as basin framework plans in the 1980s for the 12 water resources regions and 41 river basins. The plans are large-scale analyses of the available resources, of potential water demand and of possible alternative measures to meet this demand. They provide implementing agencies with an overview of the issues and problems outside their own area of responsibility, thereby affording opportunities for a joint undertaking of projects among line agencies. They also provide a basis for the review of the individual projects and programmes as prepared by the development agencies. On the other hand, the six-volume Master Plan Study on Water Resources Management in the Philippines spearheaded by NWRB was undertaken, thanks to a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency to the Philippine government, to formulate a master plan on water resources development and management in the 12 water resources regions of the Philippines.

The vision of the Philippine National Development Plan for the 21st century (Plan 21) is to create a modern and humane society, raise the quality of life of all Filipinos and bequeath an ecologically healthy homeland to future generations. For water resources, the vision is of sustainable water management to provide affordable water for adequate needs, including disposal.

Among the various challenges in Plan 21 that are related to the water resources sector are the need to develop and implement sustainable policies, programmes and projects and the need to provide a harmonious and coordinated approach to water resources development while creating an environment conducive to private- and public-sector participation so as to increase investment.

Plan 21 states that the long-term strategy in water resources planning for the different regions of the country is based on the following principles: (a) water is a limited resource that must be conserved and managed efficiently; and (b) water has an economic value in all its competing uses and shall be treated as a commodity with an economic value; thus capacity and willingness to pay must be taken into consideration when pricing water. The long-term strategy of the plan is as follows:

1. The main thrust is to create an independent authority with sufficient powers and resources to formulate national policies on water resources management, regulation (quantitative, economic and service-efficient), usage, planning and conservation. For this:
a) Pursue the sustainable development of water resources through appropriate policy and legal reforms, particularly in resource exploitation, allocation, prioritization and optimization.

b) Promote an integrated approach to link social and economic development with the protection of natural water sources and ecosystems; such an approach must be decentralized, participatory and community-based, or else conducted at the most appropriate level.

c) Implement policies through decentralized operations within a national framework cognizant of the policy of devolution and community-based approaches in water management. As such, it is necessary to address the need for capacity building and training at local level in development planning, operation and maintenance.

d) Support the creation of river basin authorities to practice integrated water resources management. Each basin authority shall develop a master plan for the area.

2. Encourage private sector participation in all aspects of water resources management, use and development.
a) Promote market-based incentives for water conservation.

b) Create one-stop shopping for water resources development.

c) Provide incentive programmes for private sector investment in all water resources development initiatives.

3. Anchor irrigation development on food security through self-reliance and uplift the socio-economic conditions of farmers in support of the social reform agenda.

4. Strengthen forest protection efforts, including reforestation activities, through community-based projects.

5. Develop a pricing mechanism that takes into consideration full cost recovery and other externalities while balancing it with people’s capacity and willingness to pay.

6. Develop an extensive information and education campaign that will make the public realize that water is a limited resource, and that it is a commodity which comes at a price.

7. Rationalize and institutionalize the data collection system for an efficient and effective flow of information.

8. Pursue and strengthen the strict enforcement of environmental laws, rules and regulations and adopt stiff penalties for violators.

9. Prioritize research on and development of applicable and appropriate technology for water conservation, sanitation and pollution control.

10. Encourage rainwater harvesting and impounding and prioritize the development of surface water resources to relieve stress and pressure on groundwater.

11. Integrate gender concerns in all water resources development and management policies and programmes.

2. Current efforts in the formulation of a national water vision

1. The National Water Conference (World Water Day 1999)

The observance of the World Day for Water every 22 March began when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution whereby 22 March was declared World Day for Water, to be observed annually starting in 1993, in conformity with the recommendations of the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, to create awareness of the world’s dwindling water sources and resources.

The Philippine government, through Administrative Order No. 258 signed by President Fidel V Ramos on 4 March 1996, officially adopted World Water Day for national observance from that year onward. The order also provided for the observance of the National Water Conservation Year, starting on World Water Day. Corollary to the government’s effort of attaining sustainable development, all sectors must demonstrate solidarity with the international community in advocating water conservation and sustainable use.

A national conference aimed at creating a shared vision on water supply and sanitation for the 21st century highlighted the celebration of World Water Day in 1999. Heads of the different government agencies involved in water supply and sanitation as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations, private sector companies, people’s organizations, women’s groups and other bodies took part in the conference to come up with a water sector statement in accordance with the year’s World Water Day theme of “Everybody Lives Downstream”, with emphasis on water resources management at the river basin level and in accordance with Vision 21, a shared vision for water supply and sanitation development for the next century. Vision 21 was conceived during the Global Forum on Water Supply and Sanitation of the Collaborative Council held in Manila in 1997 to improve universal access to water supply and sanitation facilities through shared efforts.

The conference stressed the importance of defining a shared vision leading to common strategic choices and actions. It underscored the need to visualize the desired state of water supply and sanitation in the future and steer the different stakeholders towards this vision. The series of workshops from the regional consultations leading to the national conference had emphasized the need for a participatory approach articulating the needs of the various stakeholders to draw up a list of the changes and actions needed to attain the vision. The conference capped the local consultations done in several grassroots communities.

The objectives of the workshop were to elicit a shared vision, identify changes necessary to attain the vision and map out the steps that should be taken within the next five years to effect the desired changes.

To arrive at a vision for water supply and sanitation, the workshop participants were divided into nine groups, each group including representatives of private, government and non-government organizations in order to stimulate exchanges of views. Facilitators were assigned to each group and discussions were triggered by guidance questions and ‘situationers’ proved helpful in integrating the various perspectives.

The key phrases or images solicited to describe the state of the water supply, sewerage and sanitation in 2025 are as follows:

Water supply



· Sustainable

· Comprehensive system countrywide

· Environmentally sustainable garbage disposal system countrywide

· Affordable

· Potable

· State-of-the-art system

· Safe and clean

· 100% compliance

· Accessible

· Strict enforcement

· Sufficient

· World-class

· Conserved & protected watershed areas

These key phrases were crafted into a vision statement for each of the nine groups, leading to the formulation of an integrated vision statement, which reads: “A world-class, affordable and sustainable water supply, sanitation and sewerage system accessible to every Filipino.”

Entry points for change were also identified in the workshop to narrow the gap between desired and actual output and enhance the attainment of the groups’ vision statement. The points are as follows:

Policy: This refers to statements and pronouncements of support for an integrated policy framework for sustainable water resources development.

People: These are changes in the mindset and behaviour of the stakeholders, who can act as sponsors, agents and advocates of change in the water system.

Enabling mechanisms: These refer to changes in approach when accessing material and non-material resources for the implementation of the water system vision.

Infrastructure and technology: This pertains to innovative and promising practices in water supply, sanitation and sewerage.

Facilitating factors that would contribute strongly to the realization of the vision are the following:

2.-National consultation on water sector mapping and visioning

The National Consultation on Water Sector Mapping and Visioning held on 12 May 1999 at the ADB headquarters was the first activity undertaken in the Philippines towards the formulation of a national vision. Its conclusions were to contribute to a regional report on water sector mapping and vision for Southeast Asia, a major project of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) in collaboration with the World Water Council (WWC). Similar reports were under preparation for South Asia, China, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe to address the various issues on water resources management; in turn, they were to contribute to the global reports of GWP and WWC, which were to be presented to the Second World Water Forum in March 2000 in The Hague.

The GWP thrust is on integrated water resources management (IWRM), which aims to ensure the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources by maximizing economic and social welfare without compromising the sustainability of vital environmental systems. Thus, the one-day national consultation meeting on IWRM for the Philippines was convened to arrive at a consensus on:

The Philippine meeting was divided into two parts: mapping exercises and visioning exercises. In this project, mapping was defined as identifying the needs for strategic assistance in IWRM and assessing the availability of service providers or expertise to address those needs. Service providers could be university institutes, research and consultancy organizations, UN specialized agencies, external support agencies, government institutions, individuals or publications. Strategic assistance can be seen as assistance to the process of decision-making on the management of water resources, including setting the framework for these decisions. The mode of assistance may take the following forms:

Visioning, on the other hand, consists of consultations with the stakeholders in the Philippines on their vision of water, life and the environment in 2025 and the development of a framework for action to attain the vision. Among the issues addressed on visioning are:

To obtain the views and ideas from as wide a selection of concerned stakeholders as possible from the many subsectors and institutions that employ not only water professionals but also social scientists involved in the water sector, questionnaires on mapping were sent out to some 300 potential participants several months before the meeting. Those who responded were taken as participants to the meeting. The questionnaire listed all the possible issues in IWRM as well as the cross-sectoral issues in the other water subsectors that are considered relevant to the Philippines. The questions were framed in such a manner as to determine, among other things, which of the 62 issues in IWRM:

The results of the completed questionnaires were analysed and the issues ranked according to their average score. The participants in the meeting were divided into four groups and were requested to validate the results of the initial survey to arrive at a consensus on the priority issues through a process of grouping and regrouping similar ideas. Thus, the factors needed to achieve the vision - the “driving forces” - were identified. They served as input in the development of a framework for action. Validation results show that the Philippine need for strategic assistance revolves around four issues: standards setting, regulation, data management, and allocation. In other words, there is a need for assistance in developing a strong institutional framework which will resolve conflicts arising from these issues, i.e. allocation and use, tariff, and quality, and promote policies for a more equitable and efficient use of water.

The vision statement for the water sector endorsed by the participants to the meeting reads: “By the year 2025, water resources in the Philippines are to be used efficiently, allocated equitably and managed in a sustainable way.” Participants identified six driving forces that are necessary to achieve such a vision. These are grouped under the following general factors:

The framework for action to achieve the national water sector vision in 2025 for the foregoing driving forces is as follows:

a. Promoting resource access and upholding property rights; ensuring gender equity in the access to resources; upholding indigenous rights; providing the marginalized population with access to affordable water through socialized pricing.

b. Integrating the social acceptability dimension into project feasibility studies; preserving and restoring cultures and traditions; promoting equitable gender involvement at all stages of project development.

a. Adopting water-pricing policies that reflect the economic cost of using water resources and encourage full cost recovery for water services, including resources management to the extent possible.

b. Considering the ‘users pay’ principle and market-based instruments to enhance water usage efficiency and rationalize the allocation of water resources.

c. Adopting the ‘polluters pay’ principle to reduce water pollution.

d. Apply economic principles in project planning to focus development on projects which satisfy both social needs and efficiency criteria.

a. Adopting environmental management tools in policy and decision-making
- Proper land-use planning and zoning.

- Application of environmental risk assessment for critical industrial projects.

- Full implementation of a system for monitoring environmental quality and natural resources usage.

b. Protecting the environment and conserving natural resources
- Protecting and conserving bio-diversity.

- Ensuring watershed protection and management.

- Maintaining the productivity of agricultural, forest and aquatic resources.

- Maintaining the assimilative capacity or quality of air, water and land resources.

- Ensuring proper disposal of solid, toxic and hazardous wastes.

c. Assessing the country’s vulnerability and adaptation capability to climatic change

d. Promoting environmental awareness, including environmental ethics, and supporting environmental management actions

- Effecting change in values and attitudes through environmental education.

- Developing environmental manpower to support environmental management.

a. Adopting environment-friendly technology
- Minimizing generation of waste.
- Recycling and reusing wastewater.
b.-Promoting water demand management and water conservation
- Increasing irrigation efficiency through the application of measures, i.e. proper crop selection and techniques such as sprinkler or drip irrigation, and other options.

- Improving the design, construction, operation and maintenance of water supply facilities to improve efficiency and minimize water losses.

a. Improving institutional capability in integrated water resources management
- Strengthening the technical, managerial and financial capacity of water sector institutions.

- Strengthening linkage and coordination among the agencies concerned.

- Improving the information and data system for planning and decision-making.

- Regular updating of the national water resources assessment and water resources master plan using the latest reliable data.

b. Promoting broader stakeholder consultation and participation in water resources management

c. Ensuring the strict enforcement of water-related laws, implementing rules and standards

d. Intensifying public information and education campaigns on water demand management

The identified driving forces or trends that are expected to shape the water sector scenario in the first quarter of the 21st century can also be linked to the issues in IWRM, which essentially suggests that the effective implementation of IWRM will highly contribute to achieving the national water sector vision in 2025. However, while significant headway has been gained in IWRM during the last two decades, reform initiatives are still needed to provide an adequate environment for the effective and efficient implementation of IWRM. These include:
a. An IWRM awareness raising campaign in political and technical circles and among the public to ensure active support at all levels.

b. Reform of the institutional framework for the integrated planning and regulation of water resources, the water rights system, and environmental issues (through legislation).

c. The strict implementation and enforcement of laws and policies and streamlining of the bureaucracy (through executive orders).

d. Improvement of data and information, including a review and rehabilitation of the data collection network for surface water, groundwater and water quality.

e. Enhanced transfer of knowledge and information based on global experiences and best practices on all aspects of IWRM - policy, law, management procedures, etc.

f. Capacity building, not only for individuals but also for institutions.

g. Research and development to increase and disseminate knowledge, methods and tools to facilitate the understanding of the complex water system, to forecast its long-term dynamics and to compare the impact of various policies and management approaches with the institutional framework.


1. The water supply and sanitation sector

The national vision for the water supply and sanitation sector was conceived in accordance with the long-term vision on water, life and the environment, or World Water Vision 2025 - also known as Vision 21. It invites all stakeholders to contribute to the development of a global vision with the Netherlands government as the main sponsor of this worldwide consultation. Vision 21 was conceived during the Global Forum on Water Supply and Sanitation held in Manila in 1997 to improve universal access to water supply and sanitation facilities through shared efforts.

To develop a vision for water supply and sanitation in the future, the broader political, economic and socio-cultural context in which the water supply and sanitation sector operates was taken into consideration. For one, at the current growth rate of about two percent annually, the Philippine population of about 70 million is expected to number slightly more than 100 million by the year 2025. Current water supply coverage is only about 78 percent, and sanitation coverage roughly about 69 percent. Sewerage coverage is only seven percent. Some of the main sectoral concerns identified are as follows:

1. Non-systematic approach to water resources management

An integrated and holistic approach to water resources management is simply missing. The sheer number of agencies involved compounded with the ambiguous definition of their responsibilities result in overlapping work, lack of comprehensive data and a fractional water resources management plan that is grossly inadequate in satisfying the requirements for sustainability.

2. Very low priority given to sanitation and sewerage

There is a lack of public awareness of the importance of sanitation facilities in relation to public health and environmental well-being. Data is inadequate to determine the effectiveness of sanitation and sewerage programmes. The existing facilities are generally unsatisfactory and inadequate to protect public health. Mortality and morbidity rates from waterborne diseases are still high. Investment in sanitation and sewerage programmes is minimal, which contributes to their low level of affordability and makes people unwilling to pay for such services.

3. Inadequate financial support to water, sanitation and sewerage programmes

Major investments in water supply and sanitation programmes are not a priority of local government units. Capital financing for major sanitation and sewerage programmes remains a problem. High capital costs make the construction of conventional sewers in many urban areas unaffordable without subsidies.

4. Unreliable water supply databases

It is said that many areas have exceeded the sustainable level of water utilization and it is of concern that the true level of utilization is not known because the available data are fragmented, incomplete and contradictory. The competition for water resources is not well managed. In particular, in some regions and provinces, water resources availability is becoming critical and will require bold planning decisions at regional level and new ways of thinking about water.

5. Inadequate capacity building in the water supply sector, including operations and maintenance

Most foreign-assisted projects include institutional-strengthening and capacity-building components. Despite these efforts, many constructed water systems soon cease to function and many more are in need of rehabilitation and improvement. While community participation and management is universally recognized as a vital component of water supply and sanitation projects, this strategy has yet to be fully applied. The support system to address the technical, institutional and financial needs of community-based water supply and sanitation associations is not institutionalized. Private sector participation is being encouraged, yet there is no effective and credible regulatory environment for all aspects of the sector.

6. Poor community participation and management, especially among women in the water sanitation and sewerage sector

The failure of most water and sanitation projects has been attributed to the low quality of community participation and management, especially among women. The alarming number of non-functioning community-based water and sanitation associations can generally be attributed to the lack of sustaining activities after the turnover of the project to the association. Gender-sensitive project implementation, though frequently mentioned in projects, is not yet institutionalized.

2. Food security

The integration of the concept of food security into the national vision for water has to come to terms with the fact that poverty leads to environmental destruction. The poor are often forced to exploit the environment because of their need for food and water. How can one talk about sustainable development to those who are hungry and forced to degrade natural resources to survive? It is therefore important to address the issue on food security in the development of a national vision for water.

In the Philippines, agriculture as a whole is the greatest consumer of water, accounting for about 80 percent of the total water demand and yet it has a lower priority than domestic usage in the competition for scarce water resources. Irrigation constitutes a large portion of total water consumption by agriculture; it is considered the biggest water user in the country, notwithstanding the fact that only 47 percent of the potentially irrigable area of 3.16 million hectares is irrigated. About 95 percent of the irrigated area is devoted to paddy and about 70 percent of paddy production comes from irrigated lands.

The demand for rice, the staple food in the Philippines, is projected to grow to about 16 million tons by the year 2025 or about 60 percent more than the present supply. The country will not be able to meet the rapidly increasing rice demand in the present irrigation conditions.

Efforts at increasing the total irrigated area to meet the increasing food demand are impeded by the shortage in water supply. The problem in the irrigation subsector is low water-use efficiency, due to technical and institutional deficiencies such as:

a. insufficient water control structures to ensure equitable and timely water deliveries to all sections of the irrigation systems;

b. irrigation systems were not designed to prevent flooding in the wet season;

c. increased siltation of irrigation systems caused by watershed degradation and severe erosion during typhoons;

d. irrigation facilities could not be properly maintained, which resulted in inefficient water usage;

e. deficient water management due to institutional weaknesses.

3. Environment and ecosystems

The integration of the concepts of environment and ecosystem into the national vision for water must take into account the fact that an integrated approach to water resources development and management is needed with a multi-sectoral involvement, based on the principle of sustainability. Therefore, it must be everybody’s concern, and the collective objective must be to make certain that an adequate supply of quality water is maintained for the entire population without harming the ecosystem. National development and productivity must be achieved and sustained through the development and management of environ-mentally sound water resources.

There are three main areas of concern:

a. Watershed degradation

The chronic shortage of water supply in and around Metro Manila in the past years has brought to the forefront recognition of the adverse effects of man’s activities in the watersheds. Due to illegal logging, shifting cultivation, forest fires, natural calamities, conversion to agricultural land and allocation of land to human settlements due to population growth, the forests have been shrinking steadily. Rapid deforestation, coupled with inappropriate land use practices, has led to soil erosion, siltation and sedimentation problems in the country’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs, resulting in more frequent and more severe flooding and a reduced water supply in the dry season. This state of affairs has also resulted in a decrease in the recharging ability of the aquifers.

The government has launched several programmes and projects for the rehabilitation of degraded watersheds and protection of those that are still in good condition. However, so far, these initiatives have been inadequate to address the alarming rate of watershed degradation, because of the lack of a clear strategy, limited financial resources, fragmented implementation responsibility, shortage of properly trained manpower and increasing socio-economic pressure resulting from the rapid increase of population in the forested uplands where the vital watersheds are located.

b. Groundwater depletion and saline intrusion

The uncontrolled withdrawal from groundwater aquifers in recent years has resulted in the continuous decline of groundwater levels and in saltwater intrusion in areas near the coast such as Metro Manila (WRR IV), Cavite (WRR IV), Iloilo (WRR VI) and Cebu (WRR VII). The indiscriminate use of groundwater wells for residential or industrial use was due to the failure of water utility providers to service these areas.

Aside from the excessive abstraction of groundwater, there is no national groundwater data network to speak of, in the sense that there are very few observation wells for time series data on piezometric levels and pumping rates from production wells. The groundwater data being collected by many agencies are spatial and static information on the wells drilled such as location, lithology, well casings and the results of pumping tests during the development of these wells.

c. Water quality

Water is becoming a critical resource in the Philippines. This is due to the increased pressure on freshwater resources by the rapid growth of population, improvement of living standards and increasing economic development. Although the country is endowed with abundant water resources, usable water is becoming limited due to contamination and pollution. Forty of the more than 400 main rivers in the country are reportedly polluted in varying degrees. All rivers in Metro Manila are considered biologically dead. Water pollution compounded by poor sanitation and hygiene practices has led to an upsurge of waterborne and water-related diseases. Pollution of water sources is due to uncontrolled industrial and agricultural development and to the rapid growth of the population without the development of waste disposal facilities. The runoff during floods flushes out contaminants and wastes such as industrial effluents, agricultural pesticides, traffic emissions, street refuse and uncollected garbage, which eventually find their ways into the rivers and the groundwater aquifers.

The government proposes the strict enforcement of ‘polluters pay’ and other environmental laws. This, however, is not enough to preserve the river environment, due to the following issues and problems:

a. Absence of a national policy framework for the sustainable use of freshwater resources.

b. Need to harmonize development activities in areas affecting freshwater ecosystems.

c. Need to institutionalize an integrated approach to river basins.

d. Need for an assessment of water resources.

4. Water in rivers

The concept of water in rivers was integrated into the national vision for water because when it comes to using fresh water, human beings, whether they live in a village or in a megalopolis, cannot isolate themselves from their neighbours. Rather, there are fundamental linkages and dependencies between water users and uses in a given drainage basin which affect everyone in the basin.

Given the growing human population, urbanization, industrialization and food production, the need to consider these linkages and interactions within the context of a comprehensive river basin or groundwater aquifer-scale integrated management programme is more critical than ever.

In previous years, there were attempts at regional and basin planning for which corresponding institutions were created. In no time these regional and basin agencies were dissolved and subsector agencies were assigned to continue the programmes and projects within the areas of the basin authorities. At present, there are only two basin organizations, the Laguna Lake Development Authority and the Agno River Basin Development Commission, the latter being relatively new, having been created only in 1997. The government is now again bent on pursuing the river basin management approach and would therefore need advice on approaches and capacity building to strengthen the existing river basin organizations.

1. The Laguna Lake Development Authority

LLDA was created to promote the sustainable development and maintain the ecological integrity of the Laguna Lake Basin, which is the largest inland body of water in the Philippines and the second-largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The lake is used for fishery, navigation and transport, as a reservoir for floodwaters and a waste sink, and for power generation and irrigation. By far the most important use that the lake can potentially be put to in years to come is as a major source of fresh water for domestic and industrial use in large portions of Metro Manila and adjoining provinces.

LLDA has regulatory powers such as exclusive authority to grant permits for the use of lake waters and to grant clearance for all development activities within the region.

Because of the importance of the basin as a natural resource, and aware that the rapid industrialization and urbanization in the region has put the natural environment under tremendous stress, LLDA has taken the following measures:

1. Formulation of the Laguna de Bay master plan, which provides the vision for development of the region and presents policies as well as programmes and projects that are believed to realize the vision.

2. Declaration of a multi-use policy in so far as the dominant use of the lake is concerned. The shift in policy has had LLDA refocus its priorities from the promotion of fisheries to environmental protection, watershed management and pollution control.

3. Current implementation of the Environment User Fee System, which is a market-based instrument designed to motivate industries to comply with environmental standards through stiff disincentives for non-complying industries and incentives for complying industries.

4. Stepped-up efforts to stop the continuing degradation of the 21 river systems that drain into the Laguna Lake. Using the basin or watershed approach to resources management, the revitalized River Rehabilitation Programme encourages multi-sectoral involvement in the effort to save the rivers and ultimately the lake from further environmental degradation.

5. To further upgrade its capability to manage the lake and its watershed in a sustainable manner, LLDA has commissioned various institutions to undertake important studies and projects.

The basic issues and challenges facing LLDA are:
1. Scarcity of domestic water supply in Metro Manila and adjoining provinces, and high potential of the lake as a source of raw water;

2. Environmental pollution, optimizing the benefits derived from existing economy-based instruments for pollution control and abatement, and designing appropriate market-based instruments as well as environmental and natural resource accounting and pricing strategies;

3. Equity and access to use of and benefits from lake water and land (lakeshore) areas, including allocation of quasi-property rights thereof;

4. Conflicting policies, plans, programmes and projects of other government agencies and the private sector;

5. Setting the scenario for an effective organization and pro-active management operation; and

6. Sustaining corporate financial stability.

2. The Agno River Basin Development Commission

The Agno River Basin Development Commission is mandated to oversee and coordinate all development along the Agno River Basin and to ensure a holistic approach to water resources planning and management of the river basin. Its functions are to:

1. develop a comprehensive master Plan for the river basin;

2. coordinate the integration of the master plan into local and regional plans and investment programmes;

3. cause the implementation of development programmes and projects with overall impact on the basin;

4. initiate, receive and recommend project proposals for the development of the basin;

5. formulate, review and propose improvements on existing policies governing the development of the basin;

6. commission, coordinate, monitor all planning studies and research and other development undertakings on the basin;

7. coordinate soil erosion prevention, river siltation mitigation, flood control and other projects among the relevant government agencies; and

8. establish a functional basin-wide information and database system including computer-generated planning tools such as GIS.

The programmes, projects and activities of the commission are as follows:
1. Formulation of the Agno River Basin master plan.

2. Coordination for programme implementation and project development.

3. Project monitoring and evaluation.

4. Development studies for planning and decision-making.

5. Information and database management system for planning and policy decision-making.

6. Advocacy and social marketing.

7. Resource generation and investment programming and marketing.

8. Institutional and staff development.

5. Institutional aspects

The institutional aspects have to be taken into consideration in the formulation of a national water vision, in as much as it would seem that the main issues in the water resources sector are supply shortages, haphazard resource allocation among water users, inefficiency of usage, pollution, and degradation of the watersheds. But as easily discernible as the prima facie issues, at the very core of the problem is the lack of (or rather, the need for) an integrated, coherent and sustainable water resources management programme.


Taking into consideration all the foregoing issues and concerns in the water resources sector as presented in the different water conferences and consultations as well as in the national water resources master plan, the national vision for water in the Philippines by the year 2025 could be stated as follows: “Water in sufficient quantity and of acceptable quality is available to all stakeholders, with provision for water-related disasters, in order to meet present and future needs.”


The national water vision could be achieved using the framework for action for water resources management and development as follows:

1. Water quality management

2. Water resources development

1) Water supply, sewerage and sanitation

2) Irrigation

Primarily, the thrust on the irrigation sector would be the rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems, promotion of the development of irrigation systems that are effective, affordable, appropriate and efficient, and prevention of the further destruction of watersheds. Thus, efforts would be aimed at:

3) Flood control and drainage

4) Hydropower

3. Mitigation of water-related hazards


The vision shared by the participants at the National Consultation on Water Sector Mapping and Visioning was expressed as follows: “By the year 2025, water resources in the Philippines are used efficiently, allocated equitably and managed in a sustainable way.”

The national water vision statement given earlier read as follows: “Water in sufficient quantity and of acceptable quality is available to all stakeholders, with provision for water-related disasters, in order to meet present and future needs.”

A comparison of the two visions shows that, except for the phrase “with provision for water-related disasters” in the second vision, the two use synonyms in the following phrases:

This being so, the two visions could be integrated into one vision, to read as follows:

By the year 2025, water resources in the Philippines are used efficiently, allocated equitably and managed in a sustainable way, with provision for water-related disasters.”

The draft NWRB national vision and framework for action were reviewed and validated at a workshop held on 3-4 May 2000 which was convened by the National Water Resources Board and sponsored by ESCAP, FAO, the Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation: International Training Network (ITN) Foundation, and the Global Water Partnership - Southeast Asia Technical Advisory Committee (GWP-SEATAC).

The workshop was organized as part of the regional programme of cooperation between FAO and ESCAP to promote the development of national water visions. The joint initiative can be seen as an anchoring component in the definition of the World Water Vision.

The workshop was attended by 74 senior officials from stakeholders in various subsectors and institutions that included water professionals and social scientists involved in the water sector. FAO and ESCAP officers and experts also attended.


The workshop adopted the NWRB integrated national water vision. As the coordinating and regulating government agency for all water development activities in the country, NWRB will take the lead in the implementation of the national water vision and the proposed framework for action to achieve sustainable water management practices and provide affordable water adequate for all needs, including disposal.

1. Implementation of the national water vision

1. Managing water resources efficiently and effectively.

2. Expediting socially responsive private sector participation and enhancing public-private partnerships.

3. Moving towards integrated river basin management.

4. Advocating political decisions and political support to implement the vision.

5. Mobilizing and institutionalizing broad partnerships between government and non-government organizations, people’s organizations, women’s groups, private sector and academic interests, etc, to turn the vision into action and monitor performance in order to develop a strong gender-sensitive water culture at all levels.

6. Moving towards adequate and affordable water, sanitation and sewerage services favouring the poor and marginalized sectors of society.

7. Putting in place a monitoring and evaluation system with a view to improve performance and accountability.

8. Recognizing the overriding need to create a government authority to formulate policies and enforce laws.

2. Water supply and sanitation: issues, concerns and recommended actions

1. Non-systematic approach to water resources management

2. Very low priority given to sanitation and sewerage

3. Inadequate financial support for water, sanitation and sewerage programmes

4. Unreliable water supply and sanitation databases

5. Inadequate capacity building

6. Poor community participation especially among women in the water supply and sanitation sector

Depletion of groundwater supply

3. Water for agriculture and aquaculture

Primarily, the thrust on the irrigation sector would be the rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems to improve their efficiency and service to farmers, promotion of the development of irrigation systems that are effective, affordable, appropriate and efficient, and prevention of the further destruction of watersheds. Thus, efforts should be aimed at:

1. Pursuing the rehabilitation and improvement of national and communal irrigation systems, small water-impounding and diversion dam projects, and other minor irrigation schemes, including canal lining and provision of silt excludes.

2. Expanding research and development of cost-effective, appropriate and efficient irrigation and water management technology in cooperation with other relevant government and private research institutions.

3. Strengthening the participation of irrigators’ associations in the planning, development, operation and maintenance of irrigation systems.

4. Reviewing irrigation pricing policies, specifically the irrigation service fee, to recover the cost of operation, and considering the possibility of an expanded role for farmer beneficiaries in the management of national irrigation systems.

5. Training and building up the capability of local government units and promoting women’s participation in the planning and implementation of communal irrigation projects, small water impounding and diversion dam projects, small farm reservoirs and other minor irrigation schemes.

6. Promoting the private sector-led development of minor irrigation systems such as shallow tube wells, low-lift pumps, small reservoir irrigation projects, small water-impounding projects, diversion dams and other inundation systems.

7. Encouraging the construction of irrigation facilities through other variable schemes such as build-operate-transfer, build-transfer and other mechanisms that will accelerate the development of irrigation systems.

8. Coordinating with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources for the preservation and rehabilitation of watersheds to support the irrigation systems.

9. Enhancing women’s representation and participation in local development councils and providing them with adequate skills, training and support to make them better able to participate fully in the activities of the sector.

10. Promoting efficient farm water usage, re-use and the adoption of technology for water conservation and modern irrigation.

11. Implementing strictly the provisions of the Water Code of the Philippines.

12. Solving conflicts in water usage and providing appropriate compensation packages in times of crisis.

4. River basin management

1. Establish river basin organizations that are fully representative of all stakeholders

2. Establish a strategic plan

3. Establish an operational plan

5. Water quality, environment and water-related disasters

1. Water quality

1. Providing adequate treatment and monitoring facilities.
2. Strictly penalizing illegal users of water.
3. Improving expertise, knowledge and technology.
4. Minimizing groundwater usage in salt-intruded areas.
5. Strictly enforcing forestry laws and land usage policies.
6. Strictly enforcing environmental laws to ensure water quality.
2. Environment

1. On land use

2. On environmental degradation

3. Assessment of the country’s vulnerability and adaptation capability to climatic change

4. Promoting environmental awareness, including environmental ethics, and supporting environmental management actions

5. Development and maintenance of an adequate environmental database

6. Promoting and adopting environment-friendly technology

7. Promoting water demand management and conservation

3. Water-related disasters

1. Formulating contingency plans for the management of responses to natural disasters, extreme climatic events and other emergencies

2. Developing and maintaining databases for impact analysis of a particular disasters

3. Developing and improving assessment techniques and models

4. Conducting training, dialogue and consultation to improve knowledge, skills and attitudes in planning, documentation and evaluation of the system

5. Developing and strengthening organization, linkages and networking


1. Implementation of the national water vision

An initial, four-year plan of action is proposed. It should start with a press conference to drum up interest in the Philippine water vision. As the arbiter for all water resources development in the Philippines, NWRB will conduct the press conference. The legislators behind the Clean Water Act will be invited to attend. Bills on water now pending in Congress will be reviewed to see if they can be merged into a single bill. Ground working with politicians and executives will begin as soon as the press conference is held. The Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation will spearhead the establishment of the Philippine Water 21 Partnership, a partnership formed among the participants in the workshop towards the attainment of the national water vision.

2. Water supply and sanitation

The priority programme in this sector is the creation in the first three years of the 25-year span of an authority to oversee water supply and sanitation and involve all stakeholders in the various activities required for the achievement of all objectives.

There is a definite need for an agency responsible for sewerage. As far as water supply is concerned, there are already many government agencies involved, whose functions are defined by NEDA. In the case of sewerage, however, at present only the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) actually operates the sewerage system. MWSS cannot be designated for sewerage since it operates only in the metropolis, whose concerns may not be those of other urban areas. While a Central Planning Office for Sewerage has been created in LWUA by virtue of a NEDA board resolution, it has not been operational as an agency due to budgetary constraints. So, a definite vacuum needs to be filled.

3. Water for agriculture and aquaculture

The priority actions for this sector are geared towards pursuing the rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems, reviewing the irrigation pricing policies and intensifying the collection of irrigation service fees as well as promoting modern water conservation technology.

A source of funding for these programmes could be government subsidies, though whether they would really help the irrigation sector is in doubt. The fact is, irrigation is essential to food security and food security will be paramount in coming decades because the exportable surplus of rice is declining worldwide. Besides, the irrigation sector in its current form cannot sustain itself financially because a) irrigation fees at present preclude self-financing irrigation systems and b) the irrigation fee collection efficiency - of 30 percent in Central Luzon and 90 percent in Mindanao - cannot sustain even National Irrigation Administration operations.

With this scenario, there have to be programmes to ultimately turn over the system to farmer organizations, so that later on NIA is not saddled with the provision of excessive subsidies to farmers. The following are alternatives for sustaining irrigation in the country:

1. Subsidy
a) Subsidize NIA.
b) Find funds for irrigation from other sources (local government units).
2. No subsidy
a) Divest irrigation systems to water users’ associations.
3. Gradual phasing from 1 to 2
a) Decreasing subsidy.

b) Subsidy shall include periodic rehabilitation works, depending on the viability of water users’ associations.

4. Other measures
a) Rollback irrigation support funds to ‘pre-Estrada’ levels.

b) Promote decentralized small-scale irrigation techniques that would also use resources.

c) Reduce graft and corruption, which account for 20 to 70 percent of government infrastructure costs.

4. River basin management

The priority programme is the establishment of 16 river basin organizations within the next five years. The operational plan includes the development of public awareness and consultation campaigns, establishment of a database and form-monitoring system and the formulation of a comprehensive or indicative master plan.

5. Water quality, environment and water-related disasters

The thrust of the strategic action plan in this sector is directed towards the following:

1. Water quality
a) Providing adequate treatment and monitoring facilities.

b) Strictly penalizing illegal users.

c) Improving expertise, knowledge and technology.

d) Minimizing groundwater usage in salt-intruded areas.

e) Strictly enforcing forestry laws and land usage policies.

f) Strictly enforcing environmental laws to ensure water quality.

g) Monitoring waste discharges from commercial and industrial facilities and agricultural and urban runoffs.

2. Environment
a) Proper land planning and zoning.

b) Full implementation of land-use laws and of an integrated system for monitoring environmental quality and natural resources usage.

c) Protecting, conserving and promoting biodiversity.

d) Watershed protection, conservation, development, rehabilitation and management.

e) Promotion and maintenance of the productivity of agricultural, forest and aquatic resources.

f) Enhancement and maintenance of the quality of air, water and land resources.

g) Proper management of domestic, industrial and commercial waste, including toxic and hazardous wastes.

h) Assessment of the country’s vulnerability and adaptation capability to climatic change.

i) Change in values and attitudes through environmental education in school and through the media.

j) Development and maintenance of an adequate environmental database.

k) Waste minimization and cleaner production.

l) Increasing water usage efficiency through application of measures, i.e. proper crop selection and techniques such as sprinkler or drip irrigation and other options.

m) Improving the design, construction, operation and maintenance of water supply facilities to increase efficiency and minimize water losses.

3. Mitigation of water-related disasters
a) Mitigating flooding to tolerable levels in Metro Manila and other major cities.

b) Providing adequate flood control and drainage facilities in all flood-prone areas that need protection as determined under the national land-usage plan.

c) Coordinating the development of flood control projects with the implementation of irrigation projects.

d) Implementing water-impounding dams and drainage facilities not only to lessen flood damage but also to increase the production of rice and diversified crops through irrigation, and as potential sources of water supply.

e) Pursuing comprehensive planning of the main river basins and construction of flood control structures.

f) Setting up much-needed reforestation and erosion control programmes.

g) Relocating and preventing squatters living along the banks of rivers, esteros and creeks, in coordination with the other concerned government agencies.

h) Pursuing the maintenance of facilities against lahar and dredging or desilting activities to increase the flood conveyance capacity of river channels.

i) Putting up and maintaining viable and effective garbage collection and disposal systems for areas near rivers, esteros and waterways used for drainage.

j) Organizing flood reaction teams and Bantay Estero/Ilog Brigades among local government units, in coordination with the media.

k) Organizing an IEC campaign on disaster preparation.


The battle cry in water resources management in the Philippines is water security for the 21st century. The workshop has shown the magnitude of work that has to be done to put the vision into action. To catalyse the process, there have to be as many partners as can be gathered.

The formation in the workshop of a partnership called the Philippine Water 21 Partnership is just the first step to jumpstart the vision into action. This partnership is one of the Philippine responses to the Second World Water Forum and the new grouping is expected to report to the Third World Water Forum to be held in Japan in 2003. The national framework for action agreed upon during the workshop would serve as reference for the activities the partnership would want to undertake. The partnership is expected to promote the national framework for action by generating ideas and convincing others to come up with their own sets of activities to vitalize the framework. The scheduled press conference is intended for this purpose. It is now up to the Philippine Water 21 Partnership to put direction and synergy into the different activities that have to be done so that the vision becomes a reality by the year 2025.

The sectoral action plans are more complicated than putting a national framework into action, because they involve specific targets and performance indicators to establish milestones for monitoring the performance of the various sectors against such targets. The workshop recognized the need to conduct another round of sectoral consultations to further detail the plans it has formulated. Apart from the sectoral groups of the workshop, other sectors would have to be involved to put the plans into motion. Thus, the major activity that the sectoral groups recommended is another roundtable discussion, especially for the water supply and sanitation sector, since there is plenty of data and materials and NEDA has recently completed a study on the subject. This would be an important starting point for the sectoral groups to coordinate activities focused on the national water vision and enforce the framework for action that has been adopted. In this connection, there is also a call for NWRB to organize another workshop to which more sectors would be invited so that more people may accept to join the Philippine Water 21 Partnership. Participants in the workshop are expected to be the ambassadors of the partnership, to create awareness of the vision and to generate support for the framework for action at the individual and collective levels.

NWRB has taken up the challenge. With the support of all interested parties, it is hoped that NWRB will be able to fulfil its mandate to the fullest as the arbiter of all water resources development, despite its lack of teeth and resources. There is no other way but to work together. The Philippine Water 21 Partnership symbolizes this commitment. With a common level of understanding on where to go, this national vision for 2025 will be achieved with the support of government, NGOs, academia, the private sector, international partners and other organizations, and with NWRB as the lead agency.

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