Of the feedback to my item last week on lax security at La Mesa dam, one merits citing. Reader Proceso de los Reyes wants officials who secretly built the two residential subdivisions inside the state property jailed. And well they should be. For, their narrow-minded, selfish sleaze blinded them to threats of sabotage to the capital’s water supply. They are the best proof that corruption and ineptitude go hand in hand.
For decades La Mesa was off-limits to outsiders, except for EcoPark, a wooded fringe in Fairview, Quezon City, open to strollers. Guards drove poachers out of the 2,700-hectare reservoir and 3,000-hectare forest around it. The filtrations were deemed highest-security facilities. Only waterworks employees were allowed in, and only if on duty. Under martial law in the ’70s Marines patrolled the dam compound. Security was tightened all the more after 9/11. Military agents mobilized soon afterwards when a South Asian was spotted sneaking several times over the perimeter fence. Subdivision dwellers outside the complex cooperated; their own safety depended on the dam’s defense. Suspicious activities promptly were reported to waterworks officials. A neighbor was turned over for punching a hole through the fence and erecting a dog and rooster farm in the woods inside. It was the residents outside who first noticed and kept an eye on the foreign intruder.
It was the residents too who noticed the surge in vehicle traffic to and from the dam five years ago. City hall had spanned a bridge to EcoPark, for tourists and heavy trucks of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. But jeepneys, taxis, and cars kept rumbling over the aqueduct that was not meant to carry such load for long. Reporting to barangay officers, the residents discovered the twin rackets inside the complex. Policemen to whom the MWSS had turned over the task of securing the reservoir and filtrations were exacting fees for motorists to illicitly shortcut to and from Fairview and Novaliches. Worse, MWSS trustees crookedly had awarded themselves and key managers residential lots in the state land, and then built houses. The aqueduct, actually the dam’s spillover to Tullahan River but asphalted for occasional light vehicles, became their private driveway. A terrorist could rent a trustee’s house, or ride one of the vehicles passing over the aqueduct, and throw poison into the reservoir below. A plain vandal could wreak similar damage to the tap supply of millions of Greater Manilans.
MWSS trustees couldn’t care less. They illegally had parceled state property to themselves and their favorites. Having built homes inside the dam complex, they now gaily treat it as their private preserve and motor even in restricted areas. They can’t tell the cops to stop letting outsiders through the aqueduct. What moral ground would they have if told to mind your own racket while the cops go about theirs? Both are in violation of the Water Code of 1976, the Forestry Code, and the Clean Water Act, though.
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By Jarius Bondoc
Updated February 18, 2009 12:00 AM