Water Rights in the Philippine Uplands: Policy and Practice

The issue of water rights in the uplands has never been as important as now. At present, there are two bodies that confer water property rights. One is the regulatory agency in Manila, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB). The other is the customary rule of the existing tribes in the uplands. This study will analyze the possible points of convergence of these two institutions that have rights over the water in the uplands. It analyzes the conflict and shows how various institutions can contribute to the sustainable water management.

This study used secondary and primary information to generate trends in water demand across various sectors; to analyze the local implementation of the Water Code of the Philippines; and to describe the conflict between the state laws and customary laws of the Indigenous People (IP) in water access, allocation and control.

Results showed that competing use of water in the upland community of Lantapan is increasing due to the entry of industrial companies in the municipality, the increasing demand from the population and intensive agricultural production. There is a growing conflict between the banana plantations and livestock firms; and the community members especially in the use of the dwindling surface water. To resolve the water conflicts, it is suggested that community based water management be pursued, with members of both the local tribes and the local government officials involved in the decision making for water.

Keywords: water rights, Philippine Water Code, customary rule, conflict management