Press Release
January 29, 2007


Senator Pia S. Cayetano welcomed the announcement last week by environment secretary Angelo Reyes that his department would stop all construction projects and other human activities found to pose risks to the La Mesa Watershed, including the proposed 59-hectare housing project for 1,411 former employees of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

The senator, however, also urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to make a categorical statement on whether or not the three-hectare "executive housing village" for MWSS officials poses a similar threat of contaminating the watershed. The village is reportedly located just 1.5 kilometers from the reservoir.

"It appears that the recommendation of the DENR only covers the employees' housing project," Cayetano remarked. "But what happens now to the so-called executive housing village?"

In the interest of fairness, she said the DENR should consider initiating a similar scientific study to assess the village's risk to the reservoir.

"In the event that the study confirms a similar risk, then the DENR should be ready to ban further construction in the village and consider relocation of existing structuressubject to possible payment of just compensation to those who erected houses in good faith."

Meanwhile, Cayetano called on MWSS management to immediately locate an alternative site for the 59-hectare housing project for the agency's 1,411 former employees.

"It's time to put a closure to this housing issue which has dragged on for almost four decades already," said Cayetano, who led a joint congressional panel that looked into the controversy last year. "The MWSS leadership should act now, unless it wants to be perceived as the real threat to the watershed that it is supposed to protect."

She noted that the retired employees themselves, through their representative Genaro Bautista, had already agreed to have the housing project relocated outside the critical areas of the watershed during a hearing held in the Senate last June 22, 2006.

In the hearing, Bautista, President of the Kaisahan at Kapatiran ng mga Manggagawa at Kawani ng NAWASA, said his group would be amenable to the relocation as long as the new site would still be within Quezon City.

Bautista's gesture was witnessed by no less than top MWSS officials present in the hearing, as well as Gina Lopez, managing director of Bantay Kalikasan which is leading a campaign to stop the housing project.

"I felt that that positive gesture from the employees was a major breakthrough. Now all the MWSS has to do is seize the moment, and accede to the employees' wishes to put this case to a close," stressed the senator. "Not only do we save the watershed, but we also award to the retired employees the housing project that has eluded them since 1968."

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