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Normin Summit tackles water security

By Mike Baños

Stakeholders from the government and the private sectors came together on May 25-26, 2023 to address water security issues in Northern Mindanao.

Over 400 stakeholders from various government agencies, NGOs, business chambers, water districts and local governments joined the Northern Mindanao Integrated Water Security Summit held at the Seven Seas Waterpark and Resort in Opol, Misamis Oriental.

“We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the water situation here in Northern Mindanao and how it affects our daily lives,” said Misamis Oriental Gov. Peter M. Unabia, who currently chairs the Infrastructure & Utilities Committee (Infracom) of the Regional Development Council Region X (RDC-X).

“This assembly, therefore, is a necessary and urgent step towards achieving our collective aim of attaining water security and providing safe, adequate, affordable and accessible drinking water for the Filipino people living in this part of Mindanao.”

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Regional Governor for Northern Mindanao and concurrently Vice Chairman, RDC-X Infracom Ruben A. Vegafria related how the conduct of a water summit was unanimously approved by the RDC Full Council 1st quarter meeting.

“We are gathered here today, together as one, in praying that the policy initiatives covered by the passage of Executive Order # 138 s. 2021 (Full Devolution of Certain Functions of the Executive Branch to LGUs) particularly the provisions on water and sanitation services, the current initiatives to update the archaic water studies in the country, the crafting of the Philippine Water Supply and Sanitation Master Plan, and recently, the signing of EO#22 s 2023 by Pres. Marcos creating the Water Resources Management Office in the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) be given serious attention by government and private stakeholders in order to address the depressing situation in the country,” Vegafria stressed.

A former chairman of the Cagayan de Oro City Water District (COWD) intimately familiar with the challenges facing the water sector, Vegafria exhorted the congressmen present to file a legislative bill in Congress to strengthen water cooperatives; establish the formulation of a Provincial Integrated Water Security Plan in each of the five provinces of Northern Mindanao under the Regional Development Council as a special body; create a Regional Water Supply Sub-Committee under the auspices of the RDC-X Infracom; and, decentralize the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) by creating Regional Offices all over the country.

The House of Representatives was well represented by Rep. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo (Camiguin), Rep. Yevgeny Vincente Emano (2nd district, Misamis Oriental), and Rep. Jose Manuel Alba (1st district, Bukidnon) who all actively participated in the discussions.

The Oro Chamber of Commerce chaired the Technical Working Group for the summit with the Region X offices of the National Economic Development Authority, Department of Science and Technology, Environmental Management Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Board of Investments/Dept of Trade and Industry, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Aside from the Oro Chamber and the PCCI, the private sector was also significantly represented by the Promote NorMin Foundation, USAID, Development Bank of the Philippines, and Landbank of the Philippines.

Aligned with Sustainable Development Goal No. 6, the summit centers around the theme “Securing the Region’s Water Future”. It aimed to primarily identify water security issues, develop effective interventions, establish partnerships, and establish Provincial Integrated Water Security Committees in each province of Northern Mindanao.

Resource speakers presented the regional water demand scenario, the national water security roadmap with a specific focus on Northern Mindanao, salient features of the Philippine water supply and sanitation master plan, formulation of provincial integrated water security plans, the current situation of integrated wastewater management in Northern Mindanao, and the national sewerage and septage management program.

The summit also featured exhibits showcasing cutting edge services and technologies that stakeholders in the region could tap to address the water issues and concerns in their respective areas.

Despite the impressive turnout for the summit, Gov. Unabia cautioned the region has many mountains to climb to attain water security for its residents.

“Until we take it upon ourselves that the key to addressing these challenges lies in each and every person’s effort to be part of the solution, the greatest challenge we have to fight is our own apathy and inaction,” he warned. “More than the laws and the plans we craft, the people’s understanding of the issues and their involvement in carrying out the solutions are far more important.”

“All of us have the duty to protect, preserve and sustainably manage our natural resources for the generations to come,” Gov. Unabia stressed. “Just as it is our right to access clean water, it is also our responsibility to ensure that the well never runs dry.” (with a report from DOST-X) ###

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