The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has named the Cagayan de Oro River Basin in Northern Mindanao as a water quality management area (WQMA), which includes an area best known for the popular sport whitewater rafting.
In a statement, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said this latest addition to the growing list of WQMAs in the country is “by far the largest WQMA designation in terms of the vast distances to be placed under a single WQMA.”
“The inclusion of the Cagayan de Oro River and its tributaries on the WQMA list mirrors the government’s high degree of commitment to push sound environmental policies as a prerequisite to inclusive and sustainable growth,” he said.
Paje said that declaration brings to 17 the total number of WQMAs designated since the enactment in 2004 of Republic Act (RA) 9275, also known as the Philippine Clean Water Act, 11 of which were chosen under the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The designation of WQMA is one of the strategies identified to effectively enforce RA 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, and improve the water quality of water bodies through focused interventions or actions that are designed to address specific water quality issues of the areas.
In Department Administrative Order 2013-18 that he recently issued, Paje underscored the need to make the 202,400-hectare river basin as “a sustaining resource for the people of the city and municipalities of Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.”
“This is consistent with our objectives recognizing that water quality management issues are inherently related and cannot be detached from concerns on water sources, ecological protection, water supply, public health of quality of life,” Paje added.
The Cagayan de Oro River Basin and its adjacent rivers have a perimeter of at least 219 kilometers, cordoning geopolitical jurisdictions of Cagayan de Oro City and the towns of Opol and Tagoloan in Misamis Oriental, and the municipalities of Talakag, Baungon, Libona and Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon.
Also included in the WQMA are the rivers of Cagayan, Iponan, Umalag, Bigaan, Agusan, Cugman, and the coastal area of Macalajar Bay, including its adjacent land and tributaries.
Cagayan River is famous for whitewater rafting, kayaking and river trekking. The Cagayan de Oro City government and the Department of Tourism have recently made whitewater rafting in the river as Northern Mindanao’s banner tourism activity.
For focused interventions
Paje said designating WQMAs would enable concerned officials in the national and local levels to take focused interventions on specific water quality issues relevant to a particular locality.
Under the Clean Water Act, the DENR, in coordination with the National Water Resources Board, is mandated to designate certain areas as WQMAs 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 improvement of river systems.
Also, 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, representatives of relevant national government agencies, duly registered nongovernment organizations, the business sector and water utility sectors.
The governing board serves as the planning, monitoring and coordinating body. It also reviews the WQMA action plan prepared by the EMB.
Under the WQMA, the DENR and the 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.
Other WQMAs designated by the DENR include the Lake Buhi Watershed in the Bicol Region; San Juan River River System which traverses Quezon City, Manila and San Juan; Imus-Ylang Ylang-Rio Grande River system, Cavite; Sinocalan-Dagupan River System, Pangasinan; Balili River, Benguet; Pinacanauan de Tuguegarao River, Cagayan province; Calapan River System, Oriental Mindoro; Davao River System, Davao City; Tumaga River, Zamboanga City; and Taguibo River, Butuan City; Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system and areas within the Laguna Lake Development Authority’s in Southern Tagalog; the Tigum-Aganan watershed and the Iloilo-Batiano river system in Iloilo province; and Silway River and Saranggani Bay in General Santos City in Saranggani province.
James Konstantin Galvez