GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 January) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Region 12 is pushing for the declaration of the scenic Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato as a Water Quality Management Area (WQMA) in a bid to protect the area’s water resources from pollution and degradation.
Datu Tungko Saikol, DENR-12 regional executive director, said they have identified Lake Sebu town’s famed mountain lakes as priority areas in the region for designation within this year as a WQMA or among the protected water systems in the country.
He said they already submitted a proposal to the DENR central office for the issuance of such declaration for Lake Sebu, which is home to three mountain lakes.
“The declaration will mainly pave the way for the implementation of some regulatory measures that would protect and sustain the quality of the lakes’ waters amid the thriving economic activities in the area,” he said.
Aside from Lake Sebu, Saikol said the agency is considering the critical Allah River system in the provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat for designation as a WQMA.
The DENR central office already declared the Sarangani Bay and the Silway River system, which traverses portions of South Cotabato province and this city, as among the country’s eight WQMAs.
The other WQMAs are the Taguibo River in Agusan del Norte; Sinocalan-Dagupan River System in Pangasinan; Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System; areas within the Laguna Lake Development Authority’s jurisdiction; and, the Tigum-Aganan Watershed and Iloilo-Batiano river systems in Iloilo.
Saikol said they identified Lake Sebu as priority area for the program being home to various vital water resources.
Aside from the three lakes, the town has drawn interest from ecotourism enthusiasts due to its seven waterfalls and the Trankini springs.
“Lake Sebu is considered as the ecotourism center of Region 12 and the area has remained our top source of quality and tasty Tilapia,” the official said.
If eventually declared as a WQMA, he said a governing body will be created by the DENR to oversee the formulation and implementation of the protection mechanisms for the Lake Sebu’s water resources.
He said the declaration will set the classification of the area and lake’s uses as well as the allowed economic ventures there.
“The classification of the area is very crucial because in the upstream sites, for example, the building or construction of business establishments,” Saikol said.
The declaration of the WQMAs, which were done through an administrative order issued by the DENR Secretary, is pursuant to Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.
The Clean Water Act has given the DENR the power to declare certain areas in the country as WQMAs.
It also provides that the declared areas will be managed by a board composed of representatives from local government units, national government agencies, non-government organizations, water utility sector and business sector.
The board, which will be chaired by the regional director of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, will be in charge of monitoring the area and tasked to review the WQMA action plan containing the proposed sewerage and septage system, water pollution control strategies and water quality information and education program among others. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)