THE UNIVERSITY has joined, last June 14, the Save La Mesa Coalition (Slamec) in its cause to prevent a government-controlled corporation from putting up a housing project near the La Mesa reservoir.

Through the efforts of the Center for Conservation of Cultural Properties and the Environment in the Tropics (CCCPET) and the Office for Student Affairs, the University pledged 30,000 signatures to Slamec coming for the five million signatures needed by the coalition to address their petition to the Office of President. According to the Registrar’s office, if all Thomasians sign, the CCCPET and OSA could gather more than 40,000 signatures.

“The support we have from the University is very significant” said Bryan Benson, sales and marketing officer of ABS-CBN Bantay Kalikasan, which is a member of the coalition, “It is not only because it is a big school, but the mere fact that the Pontifical University is part of the coalition shows the righteousness of our acts.”

The coalition needs 5 million signatures for the petition to be forwarded to the Office of the President, which will then act on the matter.

The coalition was formed after the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) announced early this year, their plan of putting up a housing project near the reservoir, even after the National Hydraulic Research Center–UP College of Engineering, which they commissioned to do the study themselves, found out that building a housing project near the reservoir can contaminate the water.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, CCCPET Asst. Director Prof. Anna Marie Bautista said “if the MWSS pushes through with the housing project it will violate the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act which prohibits any portion of protected areas, such as watersheds, from being segregated or sold to private individuals.”

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The proposed housing project is part of the 1968 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the MWSS and two of its labor unions—the Kaisahan at Kapatiran ng mga Manggagawa at Kawani sa NWSA (KKMK-NWSA) and Balara Employees and Laborers Association (BELA).

Under the agreement, the MWSS will allot 58 hectares of its property near the La Mesa watershed to be sold to the unions at P5.50 per square meter, with total value of P3.19 million. The property was raffled off almost 40 years ago and had been awarded to 1,411 union members. But after a Filtration Plant was built on the 58 hectare lot, a new site was relocated within the perimeter of La Mesa Watershed.

CCCPET plans to spread the La Mesa awareness by providing classes with power point presentations and broadcasting through TOMCAT.

While Tiong believes that saving the La Mesa Reservoir is a test run of what we can do.

“If we are able to save this manila watershed then we would be able to rescue more troubled places outside of Manila,” Tiong said. “It is not a matter of choice, but more of a human responsibility.” M. L. C. Celis


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