Baguio City Councilor and Philippine Councilors League (PCL) National Chairman for Advocacy Elmer Datuin was among the delegates invited to speak at the United Nations (UN) Water Conference last March 23. The UN Water Conference has convened local and regional chief executives and legislators around the world to discuss and advocate for the protection of water ecosystems in order to secure adequate water supply. In his speech, Datuin highlighted the Water Code of the City of Baguio (Ordinance 13-2007) as a significant piece of legislation that has instituted a legal framework at the local level for a holistic management of water resources and facilities in the city.

The salient features of Baguio City’s Water Code as enumerated by Datuin are the following: the creation of a City Water Resources Board which complements its national counterpart (National Water Resources Board); the issuance of Local Water Permit to regulate the proliferation of water extractors and to stop the indiscriminate discharge of wastewater; the establishment of monitoring mechanisms in water establishments to improve their environmental compliance; and the setting up of a trust fund based on the “polluters pay principle” to augment and replenish water development financing.

Datuin said Baguio City’s Water Code is considered as a “pioneering initiative” by a local government unit in Southeast Asia. “I believe that other local government units can learn from this initiative in crafting a framework for local water governance to harmonize policies and actions towards water security,” he stated. He stressed that a local water governance framework like that of Baguio City’s can initiate the creation of a strong partnership among the LGU, private and business sectors, academe, and expert groups in the areas of research, technical assistance, access to appropriate technology, and resource mobilization.

Likewise, he mentioned two priority commitments of Baguio City that are geared towards water protection. These are (a) the establishment and management of a database for water concerns; and (b) enhancement of on-going activities already in place such as the inland waterway monitoring and management. Furthermore, he mentioned Baguio City’s Blue Walk project. Activities under this project include the clean-up and restoration of the main creek and tributaries of a major inland waterway in the city called Balili River and the conservation and rehabilitation of one of the biggest water sources for the city called Busol Watershed.

All these projects, according to Datuin, have enabled Baguio City to pursue its goals on resiliency,
safety, and sustainability. “Guided by its legal framework, the City Government of Baguio has evolved as the integrator, enabler, and regulator,” Datuin expressed. As a conclusion to his speech, he said: “Pursuing global water security is a daunting task, but the opportunities for expertly guided
local water governance within a feasible legislative framework can spell a great difference in the
proper management of a rapidly dwindling yet essential resource… and that is water.”

SP/Jordan G. Habbiling

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