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Rough Cuts: A welcome realization

Finally we have found a strong ally in our effort to instill in the consciousness of our local government leaders the importance of looking into the level of deterioration of the waters of Davao City’s bay areas.

And we are talking of our push for the city to have waste water treatment facilities so that whatever comes out of the drainage pipes and disposed of into the rivers and canals and finally into the sea is tolerably safe for beach goers.

This strong ally is architect Leonida Santos, a former President of the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP) who is also a former district officer of Rotary International. We personally know Architect Santos as we had the opportunity to work with her when we were also actively involved in Davao City’s Boys Town activities as designated alternate of then board member Manuel “Bobby” Orig. The architect is one who is passionate in everything she does not only in her profession, her family’s businesses but also that which concerns public welfare. Good thing that she has come to realize that the absence of waste water treatment plants and the agglomeration of informal settlers and business establishments in almost every vacant inch of lot and marsh on the city’s shoreline are abetting the fast conversion of the Davao Gulf into one wide “septic tank.”

A few columns back we raised the issue that Davaoenos and their leaders need not look far if they are to find polluted waters that may affect the health of the people. We bluntly said that polluted waters are just off the shorelines closest to the city’s urban areas. And we are talking of waters off Times Beach, Matina Aplaya beach, the waters off the beaches from Talomo to Toril, Sta. Ana area, Agdao up to Tibungco.

We know that there are stretches along these shorelines that appear to be still “bathable.” But the reality is, the waters are already saturated with bacteria that could affect the health of people who swim there supposedly to cool themselves.

The reasons of the pollution are visible enough. And there is no doubt that the local government is, in a large way, responsible for the contamination.

One, we said in an earlier column of ours — the city has no waste water treatment facilities. This is affirmed by the observation of Architect Santos. And this late the local government is still in the process of coming up with a feasibility study, the realization of which appears to be dependent on the funding support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Another reason is the city government’s failure to implement policies that would prevent the rise of informal settler colonies right on the beach areas and river banks. And such “invasion” of the shorelines and river banks within the city’s urban center is not exclusive of the supposed landless families. Businesses like restaurants, small resorts, motels, inns, pension houses, and even sand quarrying are competing in apportioning to themselves every available space in the mentioned areas for their own selfish use.

We are certain that Davao City has existing ordinances governing the utilization of shorelines, beaches and river banks. And all these may be incorporated in the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan that is amended every now and then to be able to respond to the need of the time.

Unfortunately, the emergence of squatter colonies, business establishments and even large industries in areas expressly prohibited under the existing ordinances, seems to indicate that there is wanton disregard of the policies. The violations are not just committed by the shoreline settlers and business entrepreneurs but by officials of the government who simply close their eyes when approving permit applications like those of building construction, business operation, electrical installations, water connections, etc.

Equally responsible for the “cesspooling” of Davao City’s beach waters are national regulatory agencies that may have issued environmental clearances to industries without much looking into the applicants’ full compliance of requirements for reasons every Tom, Dick and Harry knows what.

Yes, how come structures constructed right on the beaches are issued building permits? Does the City Building Office not bother to check on the application papers the location of the structure to be built? Does this office under the City Engineer not scrutinize the building plan and check where the comfort rooms are to be located and where the likely route of the building occupant’s waste water headed to?

We want to focus our discourse more on the city government’s building permit issuing office because we know that all other permits attendant to building construction and its subsequent use for business purposes are dependent on the acquisition of building permits.

Electrical installation permits, water connection, and even telephone lines installation all emanate from an approved building permit.

Therefore, it is clear that with informal settlers’ houses, business establishments like eateries, motels, inns, massage houses in shorelines and river banks installed electrical and other related connections it is assumed their owners are issued building permits.

And with all of these “invaders” clearly wanting in waste disposal facilities, plus the absence of waste water treatment plants of the city government where have all the human, animal and material waste and its trillions of bacteria could have gone?

Of course to the sea waters that move around the city’s beaches and shorelines before these are carried by the currents to the oceans, if at all.

Indeed, as Architect Santos is advocating, it’s time to start doing something to save Davao Gulf from becoming a “cesspool.”

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