December 7, 2022

The City Environment and Parks Management Office has presented to the city council the proposed sewerage tariff reform to sustain the operation of its sewage treatment plant (STP) and to augment the city’s funds for the payment of the loan to be used for its rehabilitation and expansion.

A tariff reform will bring about an increase in the sewerage fees paid by the commercial establishments in the city.

This was revealed by Atty. Rhenan Diwas, City Environment and Parks Management Officer, during the city council’s regular session.

He said the annual income of the city from the collected sewerage fees paid by commercial establishments is only around P17 million, which is a far cry from the STP’s annual operation expenses and the projected annual loan payment.

Earlier, the city’s executive officials announced the city government will take a loan worth P2.9 billion from the Asian Development Bank for the rehabilitation of the STP.

The city government partnered with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority for the acquisition of the loan.

Tieza shall obtain a loan from ADB on behalf of the city, then the city government shall reimburse the amount of the said loan to Tieza.

The STP rehabilitation project is scheduled to be implemented from 2022 to 2026.

The city government shall settle the loan in 19 installments. The amount to be paid by the local government every year starting 2031 will be P147.01 million.

Pursuant to Section 163 of the Environmental Code (Ordinance 18-2016), the city currently collects sewerage fees ranging between P40 and P1,500 per toilet bowl per month from commercial establishments.

To reach a breakeven, where the expenses and the income are equal, sewerage fees must be increased to P32.3/m3.

Meanwhile, the feasibility study conducted by the ADB for the undertaking suggested that there should be an increase in the city’s sewerage fees by 70 percent, three times every five years starting 2023.

This means that the fees shall be increased to P17.9/m3 in 2023, P30.3/m3 in 2028, and P51.6/m3 in 2033.

The tariffs will increase at the rate of inflation by 15 percent every five years.

Based on the initial results of the study, City Budget Officer Leticia Clemente estimated the city government will be spending for the operation of the STP up to 2037.

Starting 2038, the city is expected to start realizing an annual net income from the collection of the proposed sewerage fees which can be used to augment the city’s fund for the loan reimbursement.

Aside from the sewerage tariff reform, the city government is also considering its partnership with the Baguio Water District to determine more accurately the wastewater generated by households and establishments.

Currently, the city government only collects sewerage fees from commercial establishments. Diwas said the city government will have to also collect sewerage fees from households to make the operation of the rehabilitated STP more sustainable and to augment the city’s funds to be used for loan reimbursement.

Sewerage fees collected from the households can also be used for other environmental initiatives of the city, Diwas added.

The study revealed only around 10 percent of Baguio’s population is connected to the current sewage network and that only 22 percent of the fecal waste produced in the city is adequately treated.

Once expanded and rehabilitated, the STP will be able to service up to 70 percent of the city’s population.

Diwas said the STP is using a traditional wastewater treatment technology. By design, the facility’s capacity is 8,600 m3/day but it is only treating 6,000 m3/day.

The three-decade-old STP has long been the city’s subject of concern because of its very limited capacity.

Consequently, the water quality of the city’s rivers is not up to par with the standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau.

Data from DENR-EMB showed the fecal coliform levels of Balili River and Bued River are worse than that of Manila Bay.

Diwas said the city government could be fined for non-compliance of the provisions of DENR Administrative Order 2016-08.

DAO 2016-18, pursuant to Section 19e and 19f of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2014, prescribed water quality guidelines intended to maintain and preserve the quality of all water bodies based on their intended beneficial usage and to prevent/abate pollution and contamination to protect public health, aquatic resources, crops, and other living organisms.

The law provides that any entity that commits any violation on the prescribed guidelines and standards shall be fined P10,000 per day or P3.650M per year of violation as the minimum penalty amount; or P200,000 per day or P73M per year of violation as the maximum penalty amount.

With its rehabilitation and expansion, the STP’s capacity will reach up to 12,000 m3/day, Diwas said.

Aside from the rehabilitation of the facility, its sewage network will also be improved, with 11.3 km of the main sewers to be replaced through this project.

A septage management system will also be developed through the multi-billion project in order to service households that are not directly connected to the Balili STP.

“The new STP will service around 70 percent of the total number of households while the remaining 30 percent will be serviced by the septage management system,” Diwas said.

With its upgrade, the city’s STP which drains its treated water to the Balili River will be able to take in and treat septage transported from the other three catchments; these are Asin-Gallano River, Bued River, and Ambalanga River.

A sludge management will also be formulated under the project where the city government can profit from the sale of fertilizers made from sewage sludge.

A detailed plan of the project was submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority-Cordillera on Oct. 31 for evaluation and approval. – Jordan G. Habbiling