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Duterte orders speedy OK of  key water-resource projects

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has directed the speedy review and approval of key water-resource projects in the country to ensure the unhampered delivery of “clean, stable, adequate, and affordable water” to Filipinos.

Duterte signed Administrative Order 32 (AO) on August 26, as he acknowledged that agency processes and procedures have “routinely and excessively delayed the flagship projects on water security”.

“Persistent low water levels in existing reservoirs especially those servicing Metro Manila, along with increasing demand and competing use over limited water supply call for the development of new water resources, and acceleration of water infrastructure development as an overarching strategy in pursuit of water security,” read AO 32, which takes effect immediately.

Under AO 32, infrastructure flagship projects on water security are those included in the list of big-ticket projects approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), as of February 17 this year.

The water-resource projects, according to the order, will also cover other similar projects that will be approved and identified as such by the national government pursuant to relevant laws, rules and regulations.

“All agencies shall give priority to complete reviews and approvals of infrastructure flagship projects on water security, strictly within the processing time and deadlines established by law,” the AO said.

The application or request for issuance of license, clearance, permit, certification or authorization will be deemed “approved,” in case a government office or agency fails to act on it within the prescribed processing time, the order notes.

It will be considered approved so long as all the required documents have been submitted, fees have been paid, and no reason or explanation in writing has been provided.

“For this purpose, the Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs and Projects (PA-FPP) and the NEDA shall directly coordinate with the head of the relevant issuing agency to establish, in a manner consistent with law, ways to expedite the issuance of pertinent licenses, clearances, permits, certifications or authorizations,” the order said.

AO 32 also mandates the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) to monitor and evaluate the compliance of agencies with Republic Act (RA) 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, which was amended through RA 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Act Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.

RA 11032, which supersedes RA 9485, mandates government agencies to process simple transactions within three working days, complex transactions within seven working days, and highly-technical transactions in 20 working days.

ARTA, under AO 32, can issue notices of warning to “erring and non-complying” government officials or employees.

ARTA is also directed to ensure that local permits and barangay clearances related to infrastructure flagship projects on water security would be “applied, issued, and obtained strictly in accordance with the prescribed processing time.”

Within 20 working days from the submission of complete requirements and every week thereafter, the relevant issuing agency is directed to submit a written report to the PA-FPP and the NEDA, copy furnishing the ARTA, regarding the status of the application.

The relevant issuing agency is also tasked to inform the PA-FPP, the NEDA, and ARTA, about the possible issues it may encounter and advice on the corrective measures that may be undertaken, as appropriate.

“Heads of relevant agencies shall, within the limits prescribed by law, accelerate the permitting process of all infrastructure flagship projects on water security and render assistance necessary to support the PA-FPP and the NEDA,” according to AO 32.

ARTA, within 30 days from the effectivity of AO 32, is designated to review and recommend to the Office of the President the repeal of “outdated, redundant and unnecessary” licenses, permits, certifications or authorizations being required by national government agencies and local government units.

“There is a need for the National Government to pursue institutional reforms such as streamlining processes of concerned agencies to encourage and guide investments in water supply, sewerage and sanitation, and expedite the approval and processing of infrastructure flagship projects on water security, while respecting property rights and protecting public safety and the environment,” AO 32 stressed.

The copy of AO 32 was released by the Palace on Friday. PNA