NORZAGARAY, Bulacan — The Sagip Sierra Madre Environmentalist Society Inc., an environmentalist group based in this province, has cited deforestation of watersheds as the major culprit of water supply shortage in Metro Manila.

“Ang dahilan ng pagkaubos ng tubig sa dam na siya nating tubig ay hindi lang simpleng climate change resulting in El Niño kundi deforestation o yung walang habas na pagkaubos ng mga primary forest (The reason for the depletion of water in our dam is not just a simple climate change resulting in El Niño but due to the wanton degradation of the primary forest),” said Bro. Martin Francisco, chairperson of the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmentalist Society Inc., in an interview Wednesday.

He appealed to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to use his political will “para mapigilan ang pagkawala ng kagubatan sa Angat at Ipo (to stop the loss of forest in the Angat and Ipo watersheds.”

Francisco also noted the presence of informal settlers inside the watersheds of Bulacan.

He urged the government to look for ways to relocate the informal settlers "rather than giving them livelihood inside the watersheds”.

Some personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bulacan, who do not want to be identified, also confirmed the presence of informal settlers inside the watersheds.

They, however, lamented that they have no powers to implement their relocation.

The DENR personnel claimed that around 60 to 70 percent of the 6,600 hectares of land at Ipo watershed have been “touched by human activities”. (PNA)