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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) is the overall government agency responsible for all the water resources in the Philippines. It coordinates, integrates and regulates all water-related activities that impact on the physical environment and the economy. The Board regulates water use with a water permit system and resolution of water use conflicts. It is also the lead agency for the adoption and localization of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) also plays important roles in the overall coordination in the planning and regulation of water resources.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), is responsible for maintaining desirable water quality and implementing water quality management programmes such as classification of water bodies, water quality guidelines and effluent standards, discharge fee system and ambient effluent/monitoring, etc. The DENR has a new office, the River Basin Control Office, which will primarily oversee issues and concerns related to the implementation of integrated water resources management and development.

In 2005, the President created the Water and Sanitation Coordination Office (WASCO) at the Anti-Poverty Commission with the purpose of implementing the Presidents Priority Programme on Water for waterless municipalities. The Department of Health (DOH) monitors the quality of drinking water and regulates premises with sanitation installations.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) provides technical assistance and capability building to Local Government Units (LGUs) to help them manage water supply, sewerage and sanitation services.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is responsible for flood control and drainage infrastructures. The National Power Corporation (NPC) is responsible for the development of power sources including hydropower.

The Department of Agriculture, through the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is responsible for irrigation development. In addition, through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), research and technologies for soil and water conservation and harnessing rainwater for agricultural use are developed for use of field extension staff of the local government units. The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), on the other hand, assists in translating the packages of technologies into information and knowledge materials for the proper conservation and management of irrigation and water for improve agricultural production.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is a Government owned and Controlled corporation established in 1971 and responsible for the provision of water, sewerage and sanitation services in Metro Manila and parts of the provinces of Cavite and the entire province of Rizal. In 1997, MWSS entered into a concession agreement on operation and maintenance with two concessionaires: the East Zone was awarded to Ayala corporation, which was named the Manila Water Company Inc. and the West Zone to Benpres Holding corporation named Maynilad Water Services Inc. The concession agreement will last for 25 years unless terminated sooner or extended.

The Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) governs local water districts in municipalities and cities, and review rates or charges established by local water utilities.

The Laguna Lake Development Authority was established in 1966 as a quasi-government agency that leads, promotes, and accelerates sustainable development in the Laguna de Bay Region. Regulatory and law-enforcement functions are carried out with provisions on environmental management, particularly on water quality monitoring, conservation of natural resources, and community-based natural resource management. This body is supposed to catalyse integrated water resources management (IWRM) in the Laguna de Bay Region, showcasing the symbiosis of humans and nature for sustainability, with a focus on preserving ecological integrity and promoting economic growth with equitable access to resources. From the viewpoint of governance this is a unique case. It is a self-sufficient IWRM authority with a high degree of autonomy for management and financing, and has been delegated the responsibilities of regulating water allocation and tax revenues.

Water management

Water quantity is becoming a limiting constraint for livelihoods and production. Water is not perceived yet as a critical and sensitive issue neither a real priority. There is no real concern about how water resources are used. However, there is a growing awareness and concern about the negative impacts of climate change and problems with pollution, poor water quality and hygiene issues, accompanying rapidly increasing population density.

With high population growth rates, water demand is increasing fast, yet there has been no adequate response. The discharge of domestic and industrial wastewater and agricultural runoff causes extensive pollution of the receiving water-bodies. This effluent is in the form of raw sewage, detergents, fertilizer, heavy metals, chemical products, oils and solid waste. As a consequence, conflicts between different water users have increased.

Institutional arrangements, policy implementation and conflict resolution for water supply and water resources are multi-level and the implementation mechanisms are relatively complex and fragmented. A number of private organizations and coalitions are playing advocacy roles.

The NIA organized a total of 140 Irrigators’ Associations (IA) in both NIS and CIS nationwide with 15 951 farmer-members tilling 18 924 ha. Currently the total organized IA organized cover 1 109 684 ha, benefiting 735 879 member farmers. The NIA continues to provide assistance to the IAs in various aspects of their farming activities and community livelihood programmes.

In 1997, the Department of Agriculture (DA) launched, a comprehensive, nationwide irrigation research and development programme to support implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA). AFMA recognizes that sustained agricultural growth provides an enduring solution to the twin problems of poverty and food security. To ensure sustained agricultural growth and global competitiveness, crop agriculture must focus on irrigated areas and 30 percent of the AFMA budget is earmarked for irrigation. Further, AFMA was expanded by strengthening support services and infrastructure for fisheries and livestock.


In general, the national government sets aside funds annually for the rehabilitation and improvement of irrigation for almost 3 percent, or about 27 000 ha that are lost to poor maintenance and the inability of local communities to maintain irrigation canals and meet rehabilitation requirements as a result of the almost yearly damage caused by typhoons.

Policies and legislation

The Philippine Constitution (1987) provides for the national enabling environment and overarching policy on sustainable water use and water resources management. Right and access to water is well enshrined in the constitution.

The Water Code of the Philippines (1976) consolidated the laws governing the ownership, appropriation, utilization, exploitation, development, conservation and protection of water resources. It reiterates that the water belongs to the State and cannot be the subject of acquisitive prescription. The State may allow the use or the development of water resources by administrative concession, while the preference in the use and development of water shall consider current usage and be responsive to the changing needs of the country. It also reiterates that the measure and limit of appropriation of water shall be beneficial use, which is defined as the utilization of water in the right amount during the period that the water is needed for producing the benefits for which the water is appropriated. The administration and enforcement of the provisions of the Water Code is vested in the National Water Resources Council now National Water Resources Board. The Water Code is now being reviewed to tailor it to changing times and to meet current and future challenges in the water sector.

Presidential Decree No. 424 (1974) created the National Water Resources Council (NWRC), which was renamed the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) in 1987 by Executive Order 124-A. It has the power to coordinate and integrate water resources development and management activities.

The Environmental Code (1997) prescribes, among other things, the management guidelines aimed to protect and improve the quality of water resources through: classification of surface water and establishment of water quality.

The Local Government Code (1991) provides for the empowerment of local executives in the delivery of basic services, which includes water supply and sanitation services.

Republic Act No. 9275 (2004), otherwise known as the Clean Water Act, applies to water quality management in all water bodies in the abatement and control of pollution from land-based sources. The water quality standards and regulations shall be enforced irrespective of sources of pollution. The act also provides that the DENR, in coordination with the NWRB, shall designate certain areas as water quality management areas using appropriate physiographic units such as watersheds, river basins or water resources regions.

The Philippine Water Supply Sector Roadmap is a joint effort of the National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) and NWRB, together with various sector stakeholders, such as national government agencies, water service providers and non-governmental organizations. It seeks to address the gaps and challenges previously identified by various sector studies conducted by international development agencies and research institutions, statistical data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) as well as monitoring data from various government agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB). It is designed to help the country meet the sector’s challenges and intended objectives by 2010 in line with the targets defined by the 2004-2010 MTPDP. In the longer term, it also aims to help the country meet the sector’s challenge in achieving the MDG goals.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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