MWSS eyes paramilitary group to curb deforestation of watersheds

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2019 03:14 PM | Updated as of Jun 27 2019 03:29 PM

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MANILA -- The head of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) on Thursday said he would recommend the use of paramilitary troops to stop the deforestation of watersheds, which environmentalists blamed for the recurring water crisis in Metro Manila.

The deforestation of Angat and Ipo watersheds in Bulacan is a major factor in the depletion of water inside the reservoirs that supply the raw water needs of Metro Manila residents, Bro. Martin Francisco, chairperson of the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmentalist Society Inc., was quoted as saying in a Philippine Star report.

Informal settlers inside the watersheds, he said, engage in illegal logging and charcoal making.

The Angat watershed has kept over 90 percent of its trees, but the presence of armed loggers have been reported inside the Ipo watershed by indigenous tribes tapped by the government to guard the area, said MWSS administrator and vice chairman Reynaldo Velasco.

"Special CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit) na po ang irerekomenda ko po d'yan kasi mayroon nang armado raw. Hindi na kaya ng ating mga IP (indigenous people)," he said.

(We will recommend the deployment of special CAFGU there because there are reportedly armed groups there. The IPs can no longer take them on.)

"I am coordinating with the army. Mayroon naman tayong facilities d'yan na pwedeng gamitin (we have facilities that can be used)," he added.

Water concessionaires should shoulder half of the salary for the CAFGU unit, while concerned government agencies pay for the rest, Velasco told radio DZMM.

The MWSS, he said, has planted 2.5 million trees around the Ipo watershed in the past 3 years, and would plant 1.5 million more trees this year.

"We will have to go on a massive reforestation to correct the problem there in Ipo. In the case of Angat, we have to make sure na hindi na mababawasan iyan (the tress will not be reduced)," he said.

The Angat Dam may reach its lowest ever level this week, the National Water Resources Board earlier said, after slashing the water allocation for Metro Manila last weekend.

Some areas have since experienced rotational water service outages.