The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is putting up water conservation policies in the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve (MMFR) as the water-intensive resorts in the protected area threaten water resource sustainability in Laguna.

DENR is putting up water conservation policies in the local government units (LGU) of Los Banos and Calamba City to address the unseen threat in water resources that can arise from the influx of tourists visiting the increasing number of resorts.

DENR is now employing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to analyze the spatial distribution of resorts in Los Banos and Calamba City.  Its study also involves formulation of a mechanism by which tourists could be charged with a fee for using the environmental resources of Laguna.

“The project employs economic methods to analyze the willingness-to-pay of visitors for improved water conservation practices by resorts and the conservation of MMFR to secure water services,” said DENR.

The government has been concerned that the number of resorts in Los Baños has increased over the last seven years from 42 to 171 in Los Banos. In Calamba City, the number of resorts has increased from 466 to 855 from 2014 to 2020.

The watershed of Mount Makiling is important in supporting the domestic, agricultural, and industrial water requirements of Los Baños and Calamba City.

Mt. Makiling is a dormant volcano.  This is the reason why its underground water gives rise to hot springs.  Thus, it encouraged the establishment of numerous resorts with the natural hot spring water in swimming pools and baths.

While the resorts operations have generated higher income for operators and gave livelihood opportunities for other tourism-oriented (restaurants, food stalls, convenience stores), this has brought about negative side effects, such as that of the use of water resources by the industry.

DENR’s project called “Economics, Policies and Institutions of Groundwater Use by Resorts in Los Baños and Calamba, Laguna” is hoped to ensure sustainable water operations despite continuing existence of the tourism businesses.

“Majority of visitor respondents have expressed their willingness to pay for the conservation of groundwater resource from Mount Makiling. They want to contribute to the conservation efforts.  They agreed that current practices are wasteful because groundwater is indeed limited,” said DENR. (MELODY AGUIBA)