Duterte Cabinet draws up plan vs El Niño, water shortage

MANILA, Philippines – Heads of government agencies presented to President Rodrigo Duterte "roadmap" on water supply-related issues during the Cabinet meeting  on Monday, April 1.

A plan to fight the impact of the ongoing El Niño was the first topic taken up at the 36th Cabinet meeting, part of a roadmap presented at the 36th Cabinet meeting of the Duterte administration.

"A roadmap was presented, which included immediate, medium and long-term interventions, such as making an intensive campaign for the conservation of water and energy, creating a Department of Water and a Department of Disaster Resilience," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday, April 2.

Last March 18, Panelo himself thumbed down the idea of creating a Department of Water proposed by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

Other ways the government plans to ensure water supply during the El Niño is the dredging of waterways and replacing tunnels and aqueducts.

There was also a recommendation to install water tank systems in all hospitals run by the Department of Health. At the peak of the water crisis in parts of Metro Manila and Rizal, hospitals were prioritized in the distribution of water supply due to the urgent needs of patients.

The water roadmap stipulates that funding be provided for the establishment of water treatment plants.

The El Niño currently being experienced by the country has caused P4.35-billion in agricultural damage as of March 31, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Places like Cebu, Basilan, and Zamboanga City have declared a state of calamity  due to the dry spell.

El Niño contributed to the critically low water level in La Mesa Dam which led to the water shortage in parts of Metro Manila and Rizal.

Water, anti-hunger EOs discussed

Apart from the road map, proposed executive orders to address water woes and hunger were presented to Duterte.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary Adoracion Navarro presented the proposed water EO which seeks to "transform" and "strengthen" the National Water Resources Board (NWRB).

If signed by Duterte, the EO will create a National Water Management Council (NWMC) – a merger of NWRB and the River Basin Control Office.

"This will streamline and consolidate planning and regulation of all water and river basins in the country. It will also draft a National Water Management Framework Plan," said Panelo.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles presented a proposed EO to eliminate hunger in the country. It will create an Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger, composed of 36 agencies. 

In relation to food security, the Cabinet was updated on the status of the Rice Tariffication Act.

The law's implementing rules and regulations (IRR) now await the signature of the DA's legal division, after being signed by the Department of Budget Management and NEDA. – Rappler.com



Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.