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Four baguio rivers to be reclassified according to water quality

Using the water quality classification of rivers, readers may want to place the Balili that flows from Baguio to Benguet into any of the following categories:
AA – the water is potable (safe to drink) with a little treatment; A – the water is potable after minor treatment; B - good for bathing and swimming, fishes; C – good for fish and agricultural purposes; D- for industrial purpose, excessively polluted.
On request of the city council last Monday, the Environmental Management Bureau will reclassify the Balili River, together with the other water bodies with headwaters in the city – Ambalanga towards Itogon, Benguet, Bued along Kennon Rd., and Galiano towards Asin, Tuba, Benguet.
Cortes Dagupen,chief of the water quality management section of the Environmental Management Bureau –Cordillera, told the city council that the request will be forwarded to the EMB main office which will direct his office to conduct a study towards the reclassification of the water bodies. The process, he said, may take a year and a half.
In 1975, the Balili was classified “A”. Since then, no reclassification was made on the vital water body that feeds into La Trinidad, Benguet’s capital town and the country’s “salad bowl”, and into Sablan, Benguet. It is named Naguilian River as it flows into La Union before it empties into the China Sea. Galiano was class “B” in 1989, Bued was C to D in 1995.
It’s been quite sometime since those years, and “the present state of the Balili River can be perceived as way far (below) said classification”, noted city councilor Joel Alangsab, who filed the resolution asking the EMB to reclassify the four rivers.
Alangsab noted that the recently created Balili River Revitalization Coalition also saw the need to update the river’s classification made 37 years ago.
Some city councilors questioned the need for a council resolution seeking river reclassification. Councilor Nicasio Palaganas asked if “reclassification is a necessity for its (Balili) rehabilitation?”. Councilor Peter Fianza wondered whether a downgrade to “D” would give the wrong impression for people to further pollute the river.
“Isn’t it bad practice to request an agency to do its job?” queried councilor Erdolfo Balajadia. Councilor Perlita Rondez opined a reclassification may result in a “humble acceptance” of river degradation and serve as a rallying point for bringing these water bodies back to life.
“We don’t lower but try to make it Class A,” pointed out councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda who also proposed a public hearing be held on the issue.
Whatever, Dagupen said a request for reclassification is needed before it is done, as per Department Administrative Order 34 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Alangsab said the new classification will guide the city in addressing the river pollution problem and “open the eyes of the constituents and households of this truth considering that based (on) studies, households contribute a considerable portion in the pollution of such rivers”.
Pollution of the water bodies has worsened over the years, with households and commercial establishments piping their sewage and toxic effluents into the rivers and dumping soil and garbage into the tributaries during the rainy season.
At a meeting last February of the “Alay sa Kalinisan”, a multi-agency body at the forefront of Baguio’s cleanliness drive, mayor Mauricio Domogan said pipes dumping waste into rivers should be sealed so that erring households would find their sewage flowing back and belching up their sinks and toilet bowls.
This after the mayor and members of “Alay” were briefed by members of the Balili River System Revitalization Coalition (BRSRC) and EMB officials on the tell-tale signs of pollution: low dissolved oxygen (the amount of oxygen needed by aquatic life to survive), high biochemical oxygen demand (the amount of oxygen consumed during decomposition of organic waste), and high content of coliform, a bacterium that thrives on feces.
The mayor then asked the inclusion of the Bued and Galiano in the rehabilitation program of the coalition established last year and composed of the city and La Trinidad local government unit, the academe, private organizations, the DENR and the media.
For years now, prominent medical practitioner and environmentalist, Dr. Julie Camdas-Cabato, has been into rallying barangays along the Balili to maintain cleanliness of their portions of the waterway.
On July 25, volunteers being coordinated by city councilor Peter Fianza and the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council will unclog the upper portions of the Balili of snagged materials hampering the smooth flow of water as a flood-prevention measure.
Meanwhile, the city council is keen on creating a “Balili River Task Force” led by the EMB to inventory sources of pollution on the river and to implement provisions of the Sanitation Code of the Philippines, the Clean Water Act and the city’s water code. – Ramon Dacawi.

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