The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has named three more river systems as water quality management areas (WQMAs), bringing to 37 the total number of water bodies nationwide under stringent policies for protection from pollution.

In three separate administrative orders signed by DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, 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) have been designated as WQMAs.

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

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

So far, there are now 19 WQMAs in Luzon, 8 in Visayas and 10 in Mindanao.

According to Cimatu, 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 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 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 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.

The governing board serves as a planning, monitoring and coordinating body. It also reviews the WQMA action plan prepared by EMB.

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. ###