With over 20 million Filipinos without access to proper sanitation and sewage facilities (according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources), many areas with water resources in the Philippines are contaminated which results to health problems of many Filipino residents.
In Catbalogan City, Samar, 60% of the total 20,287 households have sanitary toilets and/or septic tanks. However, these only provide primary treatment and are desludged by private companies whose disposal methods are unregulated. Also, only about 3% of the population has proper sewerage system (with pipes from households leading to a treatment plant). Open defecation and wrap and throw method are still being practiced. In 2015, 48% of the sampled drinking water wells in Catbalogan are contaminated with coliform bacteria. Diarrhea, being in the top 10 leading causes of morbidity in the city, is attributed to improper wastewater disposal.
The local government has a difficulty in managing their sewage because of the absence of a septage management plan. Lack of technical skills on how to solve such issues is also a burden carried by the city’s leaders.
“Our residents have toilets, and some may even have septic tanks, but we are not sure where their waste is going because we don’t have a proper disposal system. Sometimes, we see the septage thrown in the river or at the side of the barangay,” said Catbalogan Mayor Stephanie Uy-Tan.
SUSTAINABLE SEPTAGE MANAGEMENT SOLUTION
To address the problem of the city, international development organization Oxfam and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), recently turned over Php4.5 million as loan to help the city government of Catbalogan implement its septage management plan.
“What provided the impetus for this project was our experience during Yolanda. Most of the municipalities we visited had no toilets, and a number of communities have open defecation. We chose Catbalogan as a partner for this project because they have a very strong political will. They have a vision and concrete plan of what they should accomplish in terms of sanitation and hygiene,” said Oxfam Deputy Country Manager Dante Dalabajan.
Aside from the loan, Oxfam and PBSP also conducted capacity building activities for the LGU which enabled the experts and leaders to discuss and develop their septage management plan.
“We are very thankful for the help of Oxfam and PBSP. We appreciate their efforts of traveling to Catbalogan to talk about the septage issues, what we are going to do about it, how the plan will be successful and how this will benefit the people. The capacity trainings that we received helped us do our jobs,” Mayor Tan said.
The revolving fund tapped for the Catbalogan project was initially funded by Oxfam and is being managed by PBSP. It is expected to fund three more septage management facilities in municipalities in the Visayas region within 2018. Oxfam and PBSP are working to grow the fund to be able to support more local governments with septage management problems.