May 18, 2024

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is ready to assist Baguio in addressing river pollution through the installation of modern septic tanks, an official of the agency said.

“JICA is ready to help. We need to do something and let us not make the cleaning of wastewater wait,” JICA-Philippine Representative Takema Sakamoto said.

JICA and FujiClean, the Japanese manufacturer of the onsite wastewater treatment system that can prevent the discharge of polluted and coliform-filled water to creeks and waterways, conducted last July 5 a workshop on wastewater treatment systems in cooperation with the City Environment and Parks Management Office for better understanding of the technology.

Sakamoto said while the technology was designed for the needs of Japan, it can be adjusted to the Philippine setting.

“There is room for adjustment based on localized needs,” he said.

Baguio was eyed as a program implementation site, with the city being the headwater of two major rivers – the Bued and Balili rivers that traverse Benguet and La Union.

Sakamoto urged the Environment Management Bureau and the city government to look at clustering of residential houses in poor communities and give them clustered modern septic tanks, which is cheaper than having individual modern septic treatment systems.

“JICA cannot assist individual households but we can extend help to clustered beneficiaries,” he added.

The clustered septic tanks, each measuring 2x2x2.5 meters, costs around P200,000 to P300,000 and can be used by 15 to 20 houses.

He also suggested charging residents with environment and water fees to fund the onsite treatment facilities in households.

The FujiClean wastewater treatment system is embedded with components that clean and dissolve sludge, producing clean water that can either be buried on the ground or atop the soil.

Popular fast-food chains in Regions 1, 2 and 3 are currently using the technology in managing food waste, and reduce water pollution, FujiClean said.

“We are lucky we are not formally charged otherwise we will be paying millions in environmental fees. We cannot forever delay action on this,” said Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong during the program.

He said he has already sought a laboratory analysis of the water at the two rivers and found them to be more polluted than the Pasig River in Metro Manila.

In the 1980s, JICA helped the city government construct a sewerage treatment plant with a capacity of 8,600 cubic meters and a 57-kilometer pipeline servicing around 10,000 households and establishments.

However, with the city’s population of 320,000 and an estimated 1.5 million tourists in 2019, the facility is no longer able to cope with the demand for wastewater treatment, also putting at risk the city’s water resources, Magalong added. – PNA