Thursday, February 7, 2019

Pig poo pouring into Batangas Bay

Pinoys and Chinoys celebrated the Chinese New Year of the Pig two days ago with the porcine icon in the mind of most everybody, especially the self-styled seers, soothsayers and their believers. So it is just as apropos to call attention to pigs in another context. Not the lawmakers’ pork barrel issue this time, but pig excrement being poured into waterways, not by the pigs themselves, but by businessmen who raise them for profit and in the process defiling the environment. Picture rivers laden with pig and chicken shit draining into the sea.
Much has been said about the overdue rehab of the “toilet bowl” that is Manila Bay that began last week, and the cleanup of the rivers and creeks that pour polluted, toxic water into that historic body of water, site of battles and source of romantic inspirations — notwithstanding the foulness of it — because of the awesome sheen it lends to the famous Manila sunset.

Adjacent to Manila Bay is Batangas Bay, which could be just as toxically laden because of the pig and chicken shit dumped into the rivers that flow into it. It is not that nobody noticed and complained, there was just no tough action by the local government units (LGUs) for a long time.
It took a Facebook page on traffic monitoring in Batangas to rattle LGUs and call the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). But I am going ahead of the story.

Years ago, I wrote about a close friend who was in trouble with the Bureau of Internal Revenue  because she had refused to pay her taxes for four years in a row. Batangueña farmer-environmentalist and former Good Shepherd sister Emma Alday worked very, very hard to clean up rivers and waterways in her hometown of San Jose.
I had seen for myself the efforts she had put into her advocacy, which came out in print and broadcast media. (She is chair of Susi Foundation and, at one time, a frustrated town councilor.) Her complaint had to do with Malaquing Tubig, the town’s natural spring, into which pig and chicken manure were being dumped.
My friend did write a stinging letter to the district revenue officer to explain why she refused to pay business tax “to a government that does not care about the health of the people.” I ran her letter in this space. Too long to explain here how it got resolved, but suffice it to say that it was one for the books! But pollution continued.
Recently, a team from the DENR responded to the complaint on Facebook of the Bantay Trapiko sa Batangas on the pollution of the Calumpang River caused by piggeries. The river is a “principal river joined by many tributaries such as Malaquing Ilog, Sabang, and Ibaan rivers draining (from) the municipalities of San Jose, Ibaan, Taysan and Padre Garcia and the cities of Lipa and Batangas.” It is sometimes called the “Nile of Batangas.”
The team’s report said that, as of 2017, the Calumpang River had “significantly exceeded the guidelines for ammonia, biochemical oxygen demand, chloride and dissolved oxygen. Coliform concentration in Calumpang has “greatly exceeded the DENR criteria for Class C. This can be accounted to an increase in anthropological activity around the rivers which may lead to an increase in domestic wastes.” Anthropological, meaning human, as journalists would simply write in this case. (Batangueños’ remark: Ala, e!)

The report adds that Calumpang River falls under Class C, which is supposed to be beneficial for (1) fishery, that is, propagation and growth of fish and other aquatic life; (2) recreation, e.g. boating; and (3) industrial water supply.
The DENR did conduct a survey of 95 firms without discharge permits and, in December 2018, of piggery owners in Cuenca town. The dismal results are too technical to mention here, but “commitments/agreements” with LGUs of Lipa, Batangas, Rosario and San Jose have been made for these LGUs to conduct monthly water quality monitoring and analysis. They shall also submit the list of industries in their areas and validate their discharge permits.

The Philippine Clean Water Act requires all firms to have a discharge permit. The report that I have does not describe “proper” and “improper” discharge.
Batangas Bay’s case should be no different from Manila Bay’s that Mother Nature’s warriors brought before the Supreme Court and won.#