April 22, 2024

For the past three months, a team from the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) has been conducting their own investigation and inspection of deepwells in the city, according to Mayor Benjamin Magalong in a press briefing on the acute gastroenteritis outbreak in the city.

The agency is mandated to coordinate and regulate all water resources development and management of the country.

Magalong said he was informed by the NWRB that the city government does not have any authority to close a deep well even if it is found to be illegal.

However, in a recent meeting with NWRB officials, Magalong said the water agency admitted they lack field personnel “so finally this time, we were able to convince them that they have to deputize some people from the local government.”

Iyan ang malaking problema natin, ‘yung mga illegal deepwells kasi unregulated na ang mga iyan, hindi pa namin namo-monitor. At hindi naman nagsu-submit iyan ng test results, iyong nagsu-submit lang ay ‘yung mga regulated at may permits. So iyon ang mga tinututukan namin ngayon, ‘yung mga unregulated, in short, colorum na deepwells,” Magalong said.

There are about 1,003 deep wells in the city but only around 173 of these facilities have been licensed to draw water.

He said the local government is continuing to collaborate with the NWRB and the Baguio Water District to address the problem of colorum deepwells in the city.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, chair of the city council’s committee on health, said the mayor was right in saying the city has no authority in the opening and operation of a deepwell which is under the NWRB. 

“The only thing that the city does is the NWRB requests us to post the notice of application. And more often than not, we receive the request to post after the hearing is already conducted in Metro Manila. Wala na kaming magagawa,” she said.

Tabanda said the city has been requesting that as part of local autonomy, an endorsement from the local government be made a requirement in the approval of deepwell applications.

She said the city is in the process of reviewing its sanitation laws and may include stricter and upgraded testing protocols for private deepwell owners and water purification facilities.

City Health Officer Celia Flor Brillantes including epidemiologists from the City Health Services Office and the Department of Health said acute gastroenteritis and other diarrheal ailments are associated with contaminated water and poor food hygiene. – Gaby B. Keith