Southern Mindanao scores a hard hit against water contamination

Pacquiao was special guest of newly appointed Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Lito Atienza, who with Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez and other local officials, inaugurated a septage treatment facility in the town of Alabel in the province of Sarangani, which shares the resource-rich Sarangani Bay with General Santos City. The facility will enable the LGUs to properly treat desludges from septic tanks, waste water and effluents from households and commercial areas, and minimize the dumping of untreated domestic and agricultural wastewater into the bay.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Chief Aurelia Micko of the Office of Energy and Environment was on hand to witness the inauguration. She also signed as a witness to a memorandum of understanding between Alabel and General Santos City for the possible joint use of the facility by the two LGUs..

USAID’s Philippine Environmental Governance 2 (EcoGov2) Project helped formulate the memorandum and organize the event. EcoGov2 has been providing Alabel with technical assistance for the efficient and sustainable operation of the facility. Under the direction of the DENR, EcoGov2 will also help Alabel and General Santos City use the facility for their mutual benefit.  

A memorandum of agreement was also signed between the DENR, the Sarangani provincial government, and the municipalities which will use the STF: Alabel, Glan, Maasim, Kiamba, Maitum and Malapatan in Sarangani, and Malalag in Davao del Sur.  The MOA spells out the roles the DENR and the LGUs will play in operating the STF efficiently.

Currently, EcoGov2 has an agreement with the Sarangani Provincial Government to help local governments improve their environmental management activities. It has another agreement with General Santos to help implement its solid waste and waste water management programs.

USAID's Micko says the day's activities clearly demonstrate the determination of Sarangani's local government executives "to address their sanitation problems and to preserve Sarangani Bay." She adds that "USAID is more than glad to be of assistance to this undertaking."

For his part, DENR Secretary Atienza praised Governor Dominguez for his strong support, saying Sarangani is "perhaps the only province in the country with this kind of facility."  He urged everyone to "protect Sarangani Bay while there’s still something that can be done. Don’t wait for it to become the next Manila Bay or Laguna de Bay."

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation funded the construction of the septage treatment facility through a loan by the Philippine Government.