FOR GOOD OR FOR SHOW? City Hall mulls Boracay-like rehab of coastal barangays

HOUSES on stilts are a familiar sight at Ortiz wharf in City Proper, Iloilo City. The City government wants to clean up its coastal area but it will not touch the residential areas, which account for the highest pollution load, according to environment officials. (F. A. Angelo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

INSPIRED by the national government’s initiative in Boracay Island in Aklan and Manila Bay rehabilitation program, the city government will soon be launching its own coastal cleanup in 26 coastal barangays in the metro stretching from Brgys. Bitoon, Jaro to Santo Niño Sur, Arevalo.

During the regular flag ceremony on Monday, Mayor Joe Espinosa III vowed to make the coastal barangays in Iloilo City clean again.

“Sang una pwede paliguan ang baybay, subong indi na pwede kapaligo kay indi safe. Te kon pwede man lang malimpyuhan ang Boracay and Manila Bay ngaa indi ta malimpiyuhan and mapaligusan ang coastal treasures sa siyudad sang Iloilo. Nakita ta to nga pwede, so himuon ta di,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa said he already made initial instructions and directives to environmental specialists, private stakeholders, international agencies and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) during the meeting with the Iloilo-Batiano River Development Council.

“Sa meeting with the Iloilo-Batiano River Development Council, nakapagwa na ta directive and nakakuha naman ta aerial photos nga nagapakita sang sorry state sang mga areas,” he said.

As of now, Espinosa said they are still identifying the major players that will be directly involved in the cleanup.

“Aside from the different stakeholders, residents and communities will be made as partners sang clean-up. Involving the barangay officials can help a lot,” he said.

The mayor added that a task force will be created to particularly monitor and take charge of the clean-ups once he issues an executive order (EO).

Espinosa underscored the importance of cleaning up the coastal barangays to lessen and decrease the coliform level of the seawater.

But the mayor assured that the houses in the coastal barangays will not be relocated.

To prove his determination, Espinosa even said he is now planning to invite City hall employees for a swimming activity before the cleanup.

“Isa ta nga himuon para iprove ang determination, ang tanan nga empleyado makadto didto sa baybay nga mapaligos kita tanan to show our determination to clean our coastal barangays to make it swimmable again,” he said.



But according to Engr. Noel Hechanova, head of CENRO said that it is not advisable to swim in the coasts along the coastal barangays because of the increasing levels of coliform in the polluted waters.

“To be safe about this, indi advisable magpaligo dira because of the polluted waters. Based sa data from Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) grabe kataas ang coliform dira way back in 2005,” he said.

Instead, Hechanova said the water quality of the sea should first be assessed before deciding for a possible swimming activity in the area.

“For many years, gatinguhaan ko nga tani nga mag-undergo Physico Chemical Survey para mabal-an ang water quality dira sa coastal areas,” he said.

Prior to the proposal, Hechanova said they have already a program in place called the Coastal Resource Management Plan.

But considering the limited resources, Hechanova said their program was more centered on raising awareness on the stakeholders.

“Before pa nag-propose, may ara na ta daan program in place Coastal Resource Management Plan under sa conservation group. Considering our limited resources, ang ginaubra naton da is awareness raising lang anay, ginatipun naton da ang stakeholders like mga restaurant owners and schools,” he said.

As a process, the clean-up activity on coastal barangays should be focused on changing the values of the community about polluting the waters.

“It’s a process, where we want to change ang values sang mga tawo about polluting the coastal waters,” he said.

Once the clean-up activity kicks-off, Hechanova said they will be involving business establishments and barangays.

“Kon tan awon ta it would start with clean up drives. First are business establishments then barangays we want them to appreciate the cleanliness,” he said.



But the program, according to Hechanova, only targets solid wastes which only contributes to about 10-15 percent of the pollution load in the coastal waters.

“This is the tip of the iceberg because the solid waste only contributes around 10 to 15 sa pollution load, the rest is generated by waste waters ang halin sa comfort rooms,” he lamented.

The main culprits of water pollution are the septic tanks, Hechanova said.

For this reason, he emphasized the need to clean the septic tanks regularly.

“There is a need to clean the septic tank regularly. Once may septic ka anywhere apektuhan niya gid ang bodies of water. Since 2006, we have been campaigning to clean septic tanks regularly. It should also be constructed correctly,” he said.