University of the Philippines-Visayas Political Science Professor Dr. Rosalie A. Hall is pushing for a review of the Philippine Water Code, among others. “Water is not a free good,” Dr. Hall said in her talk. Emphasizing that water is technically owned by the state, Dr. Hall said that people can use and and develop water resources through permits or concessions.

Among other things, the Water Code of the Philippines laid down the basic principles and framework relating to the appropriation, control and conservation of water resources.  This leads to the optimum development and rational use of these resources. This Code also defined the extent of the rights and obligations of water users.

The Code is in effect a basic law that covers the ownership, appropriation, use,  development, conservation and protection of water resources and rights to land  and other related matters.

In connection with the Water Code, Dr. Hall recommended  the establishment of water data, and the holding of public consultation prior to issuance of water permits or conclusion of contracts for water transfers.

“There should also be a platform to tackle water-transfer cases,” she said.  “Moreover,  local level water actors or players should also be educated on the rules regarding bulk water sale and market trade of water permits.”

Another speaker, Dr. Sevillo D. David, Jr., executive director of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), lamented the lack of knowledge on the authority and power of NWRB in terms of exercising its mandates in regulating water resources and resolving various water-related conflicts.

The upside is that the government, according to Dr. David, is now considering the issuance of an executive order that seeks to strengthen the NWRB by expanding its manpower and addressing its lack of science-based decision-making power.

Meanwhile, Engr. Virgilio L. Bombeta, division manager of the Water Resources Development Division of  the Local Water Utilities Administration, suggested that authorities should also look into the possible introduction of invasive species in water basins as this would destroy biodiversity.

In addition, Engr. Bombeta introduced the concept of “safe yield” which refers to the quantity of water used to recharge the water system. Said quantity of water should be the only quantity  to be extracted to avoid degradation of water quality, said Engr. Bombeta.

Organized by DOST-NAST and the University of the Philippines in partnership with the House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology, the legislative forum was attended by congressmen led by Hon. Victor J. Yu, chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology, and staff members of various House Committees. (S&T Media Service)

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