The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has designated the Sinocalan-Dagupan River System (SDRS) in Pangasinan province as another Water Quality Management Area (WQMA) in line with the government efforts to speed up the rehabilitation of important rivers in the country facing threat from development activities.

In DENR Administrative Order 2011-14, dated November 23, 2011, Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje also called for the creation of a multi-sectoral governing board that will oversee the management of the water quality of SDRS where contamination from development activities was found to be beyond acceptable levels based on the results of a four-month long monitoring activity conducted in 19 sampling stations between January to April this year.

“The SDRS case amplifies our call to urgently act on the dying conditions of the country’s important water bodies,” Paje said, stressing that designating WQMAs 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 governing board is composed of mayors and governors of concerned LGUs, and representatives of relevant national government agencies, duly registered non-government organizations, water utility sector, and the business sector. The DENR representative chairs the governing board.

“We are working towards designating more river systems as water quality management areas. But more importantly, we are currently working closely with key stakeholders in these areas to mobilize their governing boards,” Paje said.

He also expressed gratitude to members of the Pangasinan Provincial Council headed by Pangasinan Vice Governor Jose Ferdinand Calimlim, Jr., who called on the DENR through a provincial resolution issued last August, to designate the Sinocalan-Dagupan River System as a WQMA.

Republic Act No. 9275, also known as the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, mandates the DENR, in coordination with National Water Resources Board (NWRB), 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 also seeks to provide a decentralized management system for water quality protection and improvement of rivers that have similar hydrological, hydro geological, meteorological, or geographic conditions which affect the physical, chemical, biological and bacteriological reactions and diffusion of pollutants in the water bodies, or otherwise share common interest or face similar development programs, prospects or problems.

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

Each WQMA has a governing board which serves as its planning, monitoring, and coordinating body. The governing board likewise reviews the WQMA action plan prepared by the DENR through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

The SDRS designation brings to seven the number of WQMAs existing in the country, which includes the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system and areas within Laguna Lake Development Authority’s jurisdiction in Luzon; the Tigum-Aganan watershed and the Iloilo-Batiano river system in the Visayas; and the Silway River and the Sarangani Bay in Mindanao.

The SDRS, whose development activities are predominantly for aquaculture, agriculture and domestic purposes - snakes through the municipalities of Binalonan, Sta. Barbara, Calasiao, Mangaldan, Malasiqui and Binmaley and the cities of Urdaneta, San Carlos and Dagupan before eventually draining into the Lingayen Gulf.