Issue of June 10, 2018
Mt. Province

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EMB comes out with 9–point proposal to save Balili River
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Vital bodies of water that traverse a number of provinces of the Cordillera and adjoining regions have good chances of being saved from further pollution. 

The Environmental Management-Bureau Cordillera has come up with nine recommendations that will address the pollution levels of the Balili River and other water tributaries in the Cordillera, which also serve as a way of compelling concerned offices to do their mandates under Republic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act of 2004.

In a letter dated May 10, EMB-CAR Director Reynaldo S. Digamo has proposed to Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan and concerned offices the non-issuance of building permits to buildings without wastewater treatment facilities and to no longer add more sewer connections.

The EMB also proposes a moratorium on the construction of new hotels, restaurants, or condominiums while the sewage treatment plant of the city government is not yet expanded, unless they construct their own STP.

Digamo also recommended for the demolition of existing backyard piggeries in compliance with zoning regulations and the removal of illegal occupants and structures within river easements.

He also advised on making environmental permits as part of the requirements for accreditation of tourism facilities by the Department of Tourism, strict implementation of the setback requirements for vertical structures, public disclosure of erring establishments and the non-renewal of its business permit, and the prosecution of violators and the officials of concerned government agencies for their inaction.

Digamo said the proposals have been crafted based on the causes of the serious pollution level of the Balili River that were raised in a forum initiated by the EMB-Cordillera with operators of hotels, restaurants, condominiums, and other institutional establishments and tourist facilities in the city in April, which focused discussions on the duties of concerned agencies and LGUs as per RA 9275 in putting up sewerage and septage facilities.

From the forum, it was agreed that high pollution of Balili River has been caused by existing buildings without wastewater treatment facilities.

It is also because the sewerage treatment plant of the city, which is capable of handling 8,500 cubic meters daily, is already overloaded but still has been receiving 12,000 m3 daily due to the continuous construction of buildings without STPs and are allowed to connect to the city’s STP.

Backyard piggeries were also allowed in the city, which has been the cause of the very high fecal coliform content of the waters of the Balili River.

Encroachments are also rampant in the three-meter river easements.

The pollution of Balili River, and to some extent the Bued River, has also been caused by households without sanitary toilet facilities and septic tanks that directly and indirectly discharge into the river, and the inaction of concerned national and local government agencies.

Aside from this, wastewaters from the Baguio public market and slaughterhouse also are directly discharged to the Balili River, causing the exponential level of coliform reaching billions, way above the standard of less than 1.1 MPn/100mL for class “A” waters.

Balili River, which is a class “A” water body that is the headwater of the Naguilian River in La Union; and Bued River are declared as Water Quality Management Area.

Digamo said while there have been interventions to save the Balili River, most unfortunately are palliative solutions.

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