I WAS surprised to learn that as early as 1989, a law was passed mandating rainwater harvesting. It came out in the news recently as some lawmakers want to investigate why the law was not effectively implemented. This is in connection with the water supply problem experienced in some parts of Manila and the drought that hit some parts of the country.

The law is RA 6716, “An Act Providing for the Construction of Water Wells, Rainwater Collectors, Development of Springs and Rehabilitation of Existing Waterwells in All Barangays in the Philippines”. The text of the law is very general. The details were provided for in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) prepared by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the agency tasked to implement it.

The law mandates the creation of a Barangay Waterworks and Sanitation Association, (BWSA) who shall maintain the water facilities. Pending the organization of the BWSA, the water facilities shall be operated and maintained by the barangay council. In my nine years of being a Councilor of Mabalacat City, I never heard of the existence of a BWSA. Had I known it, I could have initiated its creation being the Chairman of the Committee of Environment in the city council.

The DPWH came out with an IRR on April 13, 1989 through Department Order no 41. To my dismay, the IRR contains a lot of details about wells but nothing about rainwater harvesting facilities. Is this the reason why no rainwater harvesting facilities were constructed by DWPH? Was the IRR reviewed by Congress? Was the IRR subjected to a public hearing like other laws? The law was approved on March 19, 1989 and the IRR came out a month after in April. To my knowledge, IRR’s usually come out several months after the approval of a law after consulting stakeholders.

I did some research and found out that on June 14, 2017, the Department of Interior and Local Government released Memorandum Circular (MC) 2017-76, providing the guidelines on the construction of rainwater collectors. It cited RA 6716, but also cited other laws like RA 7160 or the Local Government Code and RA 9279 or the Climate Change Act. In my opinion, the MC tried to make-up for the details lacking in RA 6716.

One of the significant policies in the MC 2017-16 is that the LGUs are encouraged to pass ordinances integrating rainwater collection systems in their environmental codes and incorporate it in their climate change action plan. Again, had I known about this MC, I could have initiated the amendment of the Mabalacat City Environmental Code which I authored to comply with the directive. I don’t know if we still have the time to do it until June.

Anyway, I hope lawmakers will make good of their commitment to take a look at the implementation of RA 6716. They may want to amend it to provide more details on rainwater harvesting systems.