July 23, 2024

The City Government of Baguio, through the City Environment and Parks Management Office, will soon collaborate with the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera in the combat the operation of illegal and unregulated deep wells.

This joint effort will start once a memorandum of agreement between the city government, NWRB, and DENR-Cordillera is formalized. 

On June 10, 2024, the Baguio City Council passed a resolution granting Mayor Benjamin Magalong the authority to enter into a MOA with the two agencies. Once signed by all parties, the MOA will be sent back to the city council for confirmation.

This cooperation is seen as beneficial for the city in terms of regulating groundwater extraction. It will focus on monitoring groundwater appropriation, control, and conservation within the city’s jurisdiction, aligning with the initiative to enforce relevant national laws.

Through the MOA, the city government will be able to establish cooperative areas where the city can support and enhance the roles of the national agencies. This partnership will tackle clandestine well operations through enhanced monitoring, thereby mitigating water shortages and contamination problems.

The Baguio City Water Resources Board (RCWB) has been working with the NWRB to regulate groundwater extraction and manage other water-related concerns.

However, surveys conducted by the BCWRB revealed a growing number of unregulated deep well and shallow well operations in the city.

These illegal operations have led to a decline in underground aquifers, causing frequent water shortages.

This problem manifests especially during peak tourism seasons.

As of January 2024, up to 1,000 deep wells were found to be operating illegally in the city, with only 200 having permits from the NWRB.

Without permits, oversight of compliance with health standards for operating deep wells is not possible.

Permitted wells undergo periodic testing to ensure that water quality meets health standards.

Currently, NWRB has the authority to shut down deep wells while the city government can only mandate operators to obtain permits from NWRB.

The rigorous crackdown on illegal deep wells, part of this joint effort, aims to prevent a recurrence of the diarrhea outbreak earlier this year that affected over 3,000 individuals in the city. – Jordan G. Habbiling