Agnes Balota:
Exercising Community Property Rights in Water Resources Management


Tambuyog Development Center, The Philippines

In the Philippines, water resources are state property. However, private appropriation of the resource is granted through the water permit. Various tenurial instruments with regard to water are also recognised through different natural laws. In essence, therefore, there is a myriad of of property arrangements available as options for management of water resources. This is both beneficial as well as limiting given the complex nature of water resources.

The current centralised management of water resources and development has led to the overutilisation of the resource in critical areas. This is attributed to the lack of capacity of the state to control and monitor down to the local level, which has encouraged the unsustainable practice of water use. Also use right alone is not enough incentive for users to manage and protect the resource. Therefore, the realities of management of common pool resources where a central body can hardly enforce exclusion and control, or where benefits and entitlements are concentrated/monopolised by a few, can be best addressed by a community property regime.

The best option given the above is for the community, as collective co-owners of water resources, to have control over the utilisation of the resource while taking responsibility for its sustainable management and development. The management and authoritative scheme for such property regime cannot be dictated but rather, should be allowed to evolve based on the need of the community and the nature of the water resource to be managed. Within a specific watershed, this could take the form of different co-management bodies (groundwater management council, lake development authority, river agency, etc.) operating under the framework of the integrated management of the larger watershed or river basin resources.

The shifting of power from the state to the community has several requirements foremost of which is community involvement in decision-making. This will only happen with recognition from the different stakeholders including the state that the community can be effective managers of the resource. It is the essence of empowerment, where the community can be effective partners of development as well as beneficiaries of their own efforts.

Keywords: Common property regime, common property rights, water management


Contact Address: Agnes Balota, Tambuyog Development Center91 V. Luna Road Sikatuna Village, 1100 Quezon City, The Philippines, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004