RP’s first: Davao prepares to implement water code

Once implemented, Davao City will be the first in the country to localize the National Water Code to ensure protection and management of its water resources, Braga said.

Braga said it took the city around 10 years to approve the water ordinance because it is a controversial legislation that could affect interests of big businesses that are dependent on water like softdrink companies, bottled water firms and agricultural plantations.

She said the IRR has gone through a series of deliberations involving peoples' organizations, non-government organizations and other stakeholders.

Braga told MindaNews it is too risky  to leave to the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) the regulation and management of local water resources. The NWRB, which is based in Metro Manila, issues the water permits nationwide.

"How could they take care of our water resources when we can't even see their shadows here?" Braga asked.

Braga, proponent of the ordinance, submitted the IRR through City Administrator Wendel Avisado on June 30. Braga said they expect no big hindrance to its signing.   

The IRR was prepared by a joint executive-legislative committee earlier formed by Mayor Duterte composed of city executives, legislators, and NGO representatives.

The IRR provides for the creation of the Davao City Water Resource Management and Protection Council which will administer and implement the water code. The council, which will have an initial fund of P3 million, will be the lead agency in coordinating, implementing and monitoring the city's management, conservation, use, and development of  its water resources.                                             

The council will be composed of the city mayor as chair, the city administrator and other top city government officials and legislators representing committees on environment and energy, the general manager of the Davao City Water District, the City Environment and Natural Resources Officer, City Health Officer, City Engineer, Chief of the Business Bureau, City Legal Officer and the executive director of the council.

The water council, according to the IRR, should prepare, develop, and formulate a "comprehensive water resource management and development plan" to "ensure that sufficient and potable water will be available at a reasonable cost to the present and future generations of the city while furthering the economic development of the city.” 

Among the prohibited and regulated acts declared in the proposed IRR is the drilling of a free-flowing or artesian well within identified protected water resource areas from Calinan to Dacudao, Calinan to Malagos and Sirawan areas. A water resource area, defined by the proposed IRR, is the location of principal  source aquifer or water sources containing huge volume of water. 

Existing wells, with permits issued by  the NWRB, will be secured, capped and placed with a metering device to regulate water flow and water wastage.

No person will also be allowed to drill and operate a water well within a water resource area or extract water from there without a clearance from the council. They will be required to install an approved measuring device.

The IRR also prohibits the putting up of solid waste disposal systems, sanitary landfill or incinerator or garbage dump within the water resource areas. It also prohibits the construction of underground oil storage tanks within the water resource areas    

The water council, as provided by the IRR, has to consult and hold public hearings for any program, project, development structures, or any other massive land activities that might affect  the appropriation, use, exploitation, development, control and conservation or protection of water resources.   

The IRR also prohibits or regulates the application of  fertilizers and pesticides or other chemicals within water resource areas.

Braga said they have proposed a meeting between the members of the   joint committee who  drafted the IRR and the NWRB to agree on deputization of the city government to impose water tariff as provided in the ordinance and the IRR. The NWRB considers agriculture as the biggest user of water with 86 percent of the total use,  followed by industrial firms with 8 percent and domestic use at only 6 percent.

A 1991 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, showed Davao was among nine cities in the Philippines considered as "water-critical areas" together with Manila, Cebu , Baguio, Angeles, Bacolod, Iloilo , Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)