DENR Declares Cebu’s Butuanon River Water Quality Management Area

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has declared the Butuanon River as a water quality management area (WQMA), a move expected to boost ongoing efforts to revive the polluted water body in the bustling province of Cebu.

DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje recently signed an administrative order designating the 23-kilometer river as a WQMA in a bid to restore its long-term health and protect it from further damage caused by development activities.

Department Administrative Order No. 2014-05 sets the political and administrative boundaries of the WQMA down to the barangay level for a well-coordinated implementation of a rehabilitation program for the Butuanon River, which is bordering along densely populated areas in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue.

The river is considered as a highly contaminated water body due to development and industrialization. Its riverbank areas downstream are also occupied by informal settlers that mainly contribute to water pollution.

“The urgency to maintain an acceptable water quality in the Butuanon River is of utmost important to both the national and local governments because it is essential to public health and livelihood of the people of Cebu and Mandaue cities,” Paje said.

With its designation as a WQMA, Paje said the river will be placed under close monitoring to ensure that its water quality complies with the standards set forth under Republic Act No. 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

There are now a total of 19 WQMAs nationwide since the enactment of the clean water law, 13 of which were designated under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The new WQMA covers a total area of 1,500 hectares, spanning 33 villages in Cebu and Mandaue cities. Its upper watershed, which lies within Cebu City, is characterized by grassy, deforested mountain with patches of agricultural activity and quarrying, while the lower portion, which is within Mandaue City’s jurisdiction, passes through residential, commercial and industrial areas.

About 10 kilometers of the river’s length passes through Metro Cebu, and most significantly, Mandaue’s heavily industrialized and densely populated areas.

The DENR, in 2002, classified the Butuanon River as Class “D” or a water body that can be used for agriculture, irrigation, livestock and industrial.
In 2013, a monitoring conducted by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR showed that the river’s average biochemical oxygen demand value has exceeded the standard for Class “D,” and its average dissolved oxygen was below the standard set for such classification.

The EMB also noted that there was an increasing trend of total and fecal coliform – bacteria that indicate the presence of sewage contamination of a waterway – in all throughout the sampling stations of the river.

According to EMB, the pollution in Butuanon River was at an alarming state being highly polluted with industrial and domestic wastes.

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.

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 the EMB.

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.

Earlier declared WQMAs include the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System in Bulacan; Tigum-Aganan Watershed and Iloilo-Batiano River System, both in Iloilo; Saranggani Bay in Sarangani; Silway River in South Cotabato; Sinocalan-Dagupan River System in Pangasinan; San Juan River in Metro Manila; Taguibo River in Agusan del Norte; Tumaga River in Zamboanga City; Imus-Ylang-ylang-Rio Grande River System in Cavite; Calapan River in Calapan City; Davao River in Davao City; Balili River in Benguet; Pinacanauan de Tuguegarao River in Cagayan; Lake Buhi in Camarines Sur; Cagayan de Oro River Basin in Misamis and Bukidnon; and Ormoc Bay in Leyte.

Press Release, June 30, 2014

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