DENR widens clean water scope

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Two river systems in Metro Manila and one in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) were declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as water quality management areas (WQMA) recently.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu signed three separate administrative orders designating the Malabon-Tullahan-Tinajeros and the Las Piñas-Parañaque river systems in the National Capital Region and the Iyam-Dumacaa river system in Region 4A (Calabarzon) as WQMA.

These new WQMA bring to 37 the total number of water bodies nationwide under stringent policies for protection from pollution.

The administrative orders aim to protect and improve the water quality of the three river systems—which are important sources of livelihood to local residents—pursuant to Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

“Their designation as WQMA will ensure clean water in these rivers for present and future generations. Water is vital to irrigation, livelihood and water supply,” Cimatu said.

According to Cimatu, designating WQMA will enable concerned officials both in the national and local levels to take focused interventions on specific water quality issues relevant to a particular locality.

“The WQMA is a significant tool in enforcing the Clean Water Act. It aims for the improvement of water quality to meet the guidelines under which they have been classified or to improve their classification so that it meets its potential use,” Cimatu said.

Under the RA 9275, the DENR in coordination with the National Water Resources Board is mandated to designate certain areas as WQMA using appropriate physiographic units such as watershed, river basins, or water resources regions to effectively enforce its provisions and improve the water quality of water bodies.

The law seeks to provide a decentralized management system for water quality protection and the improvement of rivers.

Likewise, the DENR is tasked to create a governing board for each WQMA, which is chaired by a regional director of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). Its members include the mayor and governor of the concerned local government unit and representatives of relevant national government agencies, duly registered non-government organizations and business and water utility sectors.

Under the WQMA, the DENR and stakeholders address the water quality problems, sources of pollution and the beneficial use of the receiving water body. They also determine what control measures to institute to effectively achieve water quality objectives or improvements.

There are now 19 WQMA in Luzon, eight in Visayas and 10 in Mindanao.

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