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Roque: Right to Water bill tackles access, security issues

UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque said his vision to provide safe drinking water to all Filipinos within the next year is achievable through resources and services from national government agencies.

He said he would refile the Right to the Water bill, which employs a whole-of-nation approach in resolving a looming water crisis brought about by climate change and ensuring greater accountability from concessionaires.

“We will work hard to make potable water for all Filipinos a reality by 2028,” Roque said. “We cannot overemphasize the fact that water is a fundamental human right and essential to life.”

Roque also vowed to make water service providers and public utilities more responsible and accountable by making concession agreements and regulatory frameworks aligned to the interest of the consumers.

He said this would prevent concessionaires from charging consumers with environmental fees for non-existent treatment facilities.

He stressed that this would also shield the state and the public from other disadvantageous concession agreement provisions.

Roque said the Right to Water bill also seeks to look into new regulations to ensure the state and concessionaires are truly responsible for providing potable water to the people.

In 2020, the government amended its 1997 water concession agreement with Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Company Inc. Both concessionaires were granted 25-year franchises in December 2021.

Citing the need to avert water shortages both in urban and rural areas, Roque said the government must look at the dwindling water sources in some parts of the country like Cebu City and its neighboring cities and municipalities.

The Metro Cebu Water District attributed the water crisis to the population boom of Metro Cebu, over-extraction of groundwater, saltwater intrusion, and other problems, according to a 2019 Cebu Daily News report.

“The government must ensure that we have enough sources of safe, clean water,” Roque said. “This would secure our access to adequate and quality drinking water.”

The former member of the 17th Congress promised to revisit and refile a 2017 bill that commissions research on climate change drinking water adaptation to avert a water crisis in the country.

Under House Bill 05863, the environment, energy, and trade department shall support a non-profit water foundation in assessing climate impacts on drinking water utilities, supplies, facilities, and customers.

Roque cited that climate change has changed the patterns of precipitation around the world, leading to extended droughts and affecting water availability.

The non-profit water organization is tasked to coordinate with counterpart European and Asian water research organizations to develop a unified research agenda on adaptive strategies to address climate change impacts.

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