PROBLEMATIC WATERS: Human communities pollute coastal waters

HOUSES on the coastline like this one at Brgy. Santo Niño Norte in Arevalo, Iloilo are the main sources of pollution. (Photo by Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

AN ESTIMATED 17, 991 kilos of plastic and residual wastes were collected during the city government’s “One Time Big Time” coastal cleanup on March 30, 2019, based on a report of City Environmental and Natural Resources Office (CENRO).

CENRO Environmental Specialist I Jose Renan Escoto said human and animal wastes were observed, particularly from houses on the shorelines.

“Those areas nga ginpatindog sa dagat, kabudlay mag-ubra sang ila CR (comfort room) and it is so difficult nga dal-on nila ang basura sa sagwa, so ang tendency dira na lang ginahaboy plus there are also stray dogs,” Escoto said.

Based on CENRO’s report on the cleanup, aside from plastics and residual wastes, dead animals were also collected (rodents, cats, chicken).

CENRO also reported that there are backyard piggeries in some areas and many houses built along the shorelines have no toilet.

According to Escoto, the most difficult part during the cleanup was collecting garbage under the houses on the coastline.

“One of the most difficult things that we did was sa dalom balay sang mga informal settlers during clean up. Once magsulod dira kay damo-damo nagatilindog balay, budlay gid sudlon,” he lamented.

Escoto cited eight barangays where garbage under the houses on coastal waters cannot be collected due to inaccessibility.

“One of the difficulties we encountered was collecting garbage under the houses in barangays of City Proper namely Ortiz, Gen Hughes, Maria Clara, Pala-Pala 2, Rizal Ibarra and Rima Rizal. Other inaccessible barangays were Brgy. Mansaya in Lapaz and Brgy. San Juan in Molo,” he said.

While the cleanup, which involved almost 4, 000 volunteers, was successful in collecting huge volume of residual wastes, removing plastic wastes from the beaches, and raising public awareness, Escoto said rehabilitating the coastal area is the biggest challenge for the city government.

Since the coastline of Iloilo City is composed of 26 of the biggest and most dense barangays in the metro, Escoto said the problem on waste disposal is much bigger and challenging.

“The biggest challenge is coastal areas. Since most of the densely populated barangays are coastal barangays, the higher ang density and ang population, the bigger ang solid waste disposal problem,” he said.

He added that the problem on waste disposal correlates with the problem of poverty.

“Ang ila mindset, where will I get the next meal, not on where will they throw their garbage,” Escoto said.

Despite this, Escoto said they will undertake measures in order to solve the problem.
According to Escoto, they will start with three to four barangays and if the approach is effective, it will be replicated in other barangays.

“We will start with three or four barangays nga i-pilot and i-test ang approach kun effective then replicate,” he said.

He added that they will be creating a task force to oversee the one-year pilot project.

Their first task, according to Escoto, is to identify the main problems by assessing water quality, soil contamination, method of disposal waste, and poverty level of the barangays.

“Part sang task force, we will do a survey to address the problem. We need to understand the issues, water quality, soil contamination, method of disposal waste and poverty level,” he said.

After this, they will undertake intensive information education campaign with the residents, schools, and barangay officials, Escoto added.

Meanwhile, Escoto appealed to the residents, particularly those living in the shoreline, to be responsible with their garbage.

“The residents have to be conscious sa ila basura nga ginahaboy, kag kung diin sila ga CR. Ang ila responsibility ,they need to be made aware nga ang mga kabataan nila will suffer the most kun indi ta ni pag-aksyonan,” he said.