University of Tokyo, San Ag team up to aid communal waters in Guimaras

PACT (From L-R) Dr. Felicidad Altalaguire, Dean of the USA College of Technology, Jonel Saludes, associate vice president for Research and Global Relations of USA, and Professor Kumiko Oguma of the University of Tokyo, Japan

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

One of Japan’s top universities is teaming up with a promising research and technological institution in Western Visayas in the hopes of improving the water quality of communities in Panobon Island in Guimaras.

The University of Tokyo through Professor Kumiko Oguma and University of San Agustin inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on August 1, 2019  for a research collaboration entitled, “Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment for Off-the-grid Micro-communities in Guimaras, Western Visayas, Philippines”.

With a technical team from the two universities and the participation of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS)-Western Visayas, the project aims to assess and monitor the water quality of communal water point sources in off-the-grid micro-communities of Panobolon Island.

Using the technology developed by the University of Tokyo, the USA team through the College of Engineering and Dr. Aris Larroder of PSHS will work together to provide clean water to the communities in Panobon.

“They are not in the main cities and so they do not receive potable or drinkable water service from water utilities or services in the city. As the start of our partnership, we are looking to serve a community in Guimaras and using that technology developed by the University of Tokyo,” according to Dr. Jonel Saludes, associate vice president for Research and Global Relations of USA.

Specifically, the project targets to conduct a periodic physico-chemical property analysis on the communal deep wells in Panobolon Island essential for a solar-powered UV-LED water treatment system development.

Since last year, Oguma and her team with co-researchers Bernice Mae Yu Jeco and Tomayasu Sado both from University of Tokyo conducted a preliminary survey on the island of Panobolon.

The professor said they detected high coliform levels in the island which is an indication of fecal contamination.

“We had preliminary survey on the island and we noted that their groundwater is really contaminated by microbes, it’s very much contaminated,” she said.

Oguma lamented that technology is already available to treat such problems, however, the community doesn’t really have access to these innovations.

“So, I think we need to fill the gap between research and the real world and that is somehow what we intend to contribute to the society by providing our technology and expertise to help save water,” she said.

Oguma said that the project will run its first trial in six months and will be expanded for two to three years.

She hopes that the project will be able to help the communities in a very sustainable way.

“I will expand this project in two to three years and come up with an outcome and even after that I am thinking it will not end the outreach. It may be the end of the project but not the reach. I really want to help the people to run the system in a very sustainable way. They should be independent. I expect and hope that this runs for decades in that Island,” she said.

Saludes added that the project will empower the communities to have access to clean and potable water even after the project has ended.

“We will not just give them fish but we will teach him how to fish so that even if the project wraps up and ends, the community that we serve will still be sustainable in getting access to clean, potable, drinkable water,” he said.

He attributed the success of the project to the team from USA which was realized by pulling together the human resource expertise and networking efforts of the three institutions.

“These three institutions are pulling both their human resource expertise as well as infrastructure and logistics capacity to find ways of contributing to a solution in order to solve a certain problem that is a challenge for the community,” he said.

Oguma also shared the same sentiments with Saludes who emphasized that networking was really what kicked off the over-all project.

“I just feel the networking that is really the key that is how I meet creat