The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has designated two river systems with important cultural heritage value as water quality management areas (WQMAs), a move that is expected to boost the tourism industry in the cities of Baguio and Naga.

By virtue of two separate administrative orders signed by Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje on April 18, the Bued River System in Northern Luzon and the Naga River in Camarines Sur have been added to the list of WQMAs now numbering 23.

Paje said that securing the integrity of the two river systems not only ensures the sustainable supply of water for areas the two rivers traverse, but will also “boost the local tourism in these places known for their rich cultural and historical heritage.”

“Ensuring the water quality of Naga River will help enhance the city as a tourist destination, since it is home of the Peñafrancia fluvial procession,” the environment chief said.

He also noted that the preservation of Bued River will safeguard the image of Kennon Road, one of the vital roads that connect Baguio City and the towns of Tuba and Itogon in Benguet province, which are major tourist destinations in the north.

A major source of water for agriculture and aquaculture, Bued River runs through 25 barangays in Baguio City and the municipalities of Itogon and Tuba in Benguet before it drains toward Rosario town in La Union, and the municipalities of Sison, San Fabian, San Jacinto and Mangaldan in Pangasinan via the historic 30-km Kennon Road.

According to Paje, the designation of Naga River as WQMA will pave the way for the proposed Naga River Watershed, which covers some 7,686 hectares of drainage area spanning 25 barangays in Naga City and two others in Pili town.

Paje said the WQMA designation aims to beef up the protection initiatives of the Naga River Development Council and in support of the Naga River Revitalization Project.

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. ###