Press Release
May 22, 2006


Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said the proposed 58-hectare housing project for retired employees of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) falls within the critical area of the La Mesa Watershed.

This was established at the joint hearing on the La Mesa housing controversy conducted by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Clean Water Act.

"The threat of contamination is a distinct possibility," said Cayetano, who led the joint congressional probe last week.

She cited the presentation at the hearing of Director Virgilio Basa of the National Mapping and Resources Information Authority (NAMRIA), who told the joint panel that the proposed housing project lies within the rim of the La Mesa Lake. The MWSS administration likewise admitted this claim.

"Although mitigating measures have been recommended to prevent wastewater and effluents from seeping to the impounding dam, it appears that these measures would be very costly for the beneficiaries/residents who are composed of retired rank-and-employees."

The construction of a wastewater treatment plant was among the proposals submitted to the MWSS administration by the UP-based National Hydraulic Research Center in its 2004 study on the project's environmental impact.

The facility, added the study, would have a minimum capital cost of P46 million and an annual operating cost of P17 million.

The proposed facility involves the collection of wastewater and effluents from the houses using leak-free and impermeable sewage pipes to prevent these from seeping to the reservoir. The treated water will then be discharged to drainage outfalls in neighboring villages outside the watershed.

"And so the problem remains: who will shoulder the cost?" Cayetano asked.

She said the government cannot afford to put La Mesa at risk as a World Bank study shows that 58% of the country's groundwater source is already contaminated with coliform bacteria, while 31% of illnesses among Filipinos are caused by water-borne bacteria.

"While the committee recognizes the right of the employees to the housing project which has been deprived from them for decades, including the fact that this is titled land and there are property rights involved, this should be considered along with the interest of Metro Manila residents who depend on La Mesa for potable water. Sustainable development dictates that there should be a balance between social progress and environmental protection and we urge all parties to work together for a viable solution."

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