Bill filed to protect La Mesa

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for the immediate passage of Senate Bill 1714 which seeks to declare the La Mesa Watershed as a Watershed Reservation to protect from indiscriminate exploitation one of Metro Manila’s last remaining sources of potable water.

Cayetano filed the measure, the ‘La Mesa Watershed Act of 2010,’ amid the recent water shortage and the controversy stirred by the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino III, which exposed the excessive benefits of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) executives, including the construction of condominium units near the watershed.

“It is imperative that all means necessary are undertaken by the Aquino government to safeguard the La Mesa Watershed, which is the primary source of potable drinking water for 12 million Metro Manila residents,” said Cayetano.

“I hope P-Noy’s inclusion in the SONA of his concerns on the importance of La Mesa Dam will lead to the tightening of regulations against future activities that threaten to undermine the supply and safety of the water it provides to Metro Manila.”

“The watershed will be managed in accordance with the principles of sustainable development without impairing its usefulness as source of water for domestic use and other related purposes,” explained Cayetano, who as Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in the 13th Congress, led a Senate probe into the 58-hectare housing project for retired employees and a 3-hectare housing project for MWSS executives.

Under SBN 1714, the La Mesa Watershed Reservation will be placed under the joint supervision and control of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and MWSS.

The two agencies will also be tasked to create a Multi-Sectoral Watershed Management Council to act as an oversight and policy-making body over the watershed. The council will be in charge of planning an integrated watershed management and development plan to include, among others, intensive restoration and rehabilitation of the reservation, water quality monitoring and delineation of buffer zone.

With a total area of 2,700 hectares, the La Mesa Watershed is the last remaining forest of its size in the metropolis. Covering 700 hectares within the reservation is a man-made lake which serves as water reservoir for Metro Manila residents. The watershed also serves as a wildlife sanctuary to many indigenous species of plants, trees, and animals.

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