NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
The Senate has ordered the Department of Health (DOH) to investigate the contaminated water supply in Balilihan town during the joint committee hearing on Friday.
Senator Raffy Tulfo, who was one of the Senate panel in the said committee hearing, initiated the move in a bid to make the contaminated and unsanitary water supply in said town drinkable.
As a result, the top health officials who attended the said hearing vowed to look into the water mess in Balilihan and will coordinate with health officials in Region 7 where Bohol belongs.
Reports reaching the Chronicle said two personnel dispatched by DOH-Region 7 offices in Cebu City arrived in Balilihan to conduct the investigation.
Results of the DOH investigation is yet to announced by health authorities presumably from the regional offices.
The said probe into the water mess in Balilihan was prompted based on the complaints of concerned residents of said town badly affected by the water contamination.
The senator asked DOH to issue an advisory on the contaminated water so the people may know.
Senator Pia Cayetano who led the said hearing said there’s a need for this advisory so the people may know and understand the quality of water they’re using.
JOINT SENATE COMM HEARING
The Senate’s joint committees on Sustainable Development Goals and Public Services and Local Government, Health, and Demography conducted the said committee hearing.
Tulfo, in a radio interview over DyRD, said that he was able to persuade the provincial health officer Dr. Reymoses Cabagnot to divulge the water test result in the Balilihan water system. The latter in the same live radio interview at first refused to make public the result of the water allegedly positive with E-coli.
Cabagnot said he cannot reveal to the public the laboratory test water result “without sanction by the higher-ups or from Gov. Aris Aumentado”. The interviewer called up the governor and right there and then the governor ordered him to disclose the said water result.
BALILIHAN COUNCILMAN DISPUTES PSO WATER
Municipal councilor Lorenzo Baliong, a close ally of Mayor Pureza Chatto, disputed the said water result.
He said in his Facebook post that the people may know the result of E-coli positive is untrue since the Provincial Health Office that tested the water in the said town has no capacity to conduct the water test.
He said, “Pero ang gihimo sa LGU Balilihan atong gi double check ang atong mga chlorinator dosing pump sa atong mga water supply ilabi na sa giingon nga doubtful water source sa Del Carmen Weste. Atong gipakuhaan sa atong sanitary inspector gahapon para sa water sampling for E coli ug gi pa test sa pribado nga water laboratory sa Tagbilaran nga accredited sa DOH kay Wala man kini sa ubang laboratory sa Bohol.”
(But the LGU Balilihan has conducted a double check on the chlorinator dosing pump in said water supply in barangay Del Carmen Weste and taken out water sampling for a separate water lab test in a private entity accredited by the DOH).
If found to be positive, he said, another test and upgrade of the chlorination system or other corrective measures will be instituted.
“Mao nga ayaw mo kabalaka kung adonay gamay nga baho ug chlorine ang atong panubig tungod kay chlorinated water man kini unya atong gisunod ang chlorine residual test gamit ang Colormetric residual tester para makita ang desired residual ratio base sa Phil. national standard for drinking water nga .3ppm up to 1.5 ppm or mg/liter,” Baliong said.
Balilihan Mayor Pureza V. Chatto, the wife of Congressman Edgar Chatto, asked the people of Balilihan for a voluntary disconnection if they don’t want the water allegedly contaminated with E-coli, or advised them to boil the said water before using it.
In the meantime, sources said DOH R7 Engr. Henry Saludar, Sanitary Engr 3 of DOH R7 and his team, reportedly visited Balilihan Bugwak Spring supposedly to get samples for the spring. It could not be determined if indeed the sample testing was successful.
However, Balilihan “Clean Water” advocate Ricky Mandanguit said that any tests for potability from any source in Balilihan should be witnessed by Balilihan residents. It may be recalled the water testing from several faucets in Balilihan by the Tulfo Team was recorded on video camera and done before several witnesses.
In the meantime, the main office personnel of the DENR and DOH are reportedly setting an audience with Mayor Juliet Dano of Sevilla. It is public knowledge that the Sevilla LGU is vehemently against the “trespassing” of water sources tapping and land in Sevilla by Balilihan in the absence of proper LGU-Sevilla authorization. The NWRD Permit was meant to cover the Balilihan area only.
Industry sources said that adding chlorine or improving chlorination is not enough process to rid of sediments which are also detrimental to one’s health although it can likely remove most of the E-coli.
The ultimate remedy is the so-called “water treatment” process (five steps) which can likely cost about P50 million, according to industry experts. This is one option that the Balilihan LGU can pursue.
The other is to open the bidding on the potable water supply project as envisioned in RA 9184 to possible suppliers like BUW (Bohol Utility Waterworks), Richli Corporation, or any other interested investor. This is to consider the preference of NWRB based on a scientific study commissioned by the USAID to give preference to non-underground water sources which have been identified as no longer safe in many places in Bohol.
According to Richli Corporation, as early as October 20, 2020, they had written a formal letter of intent to participate in such bidding if called by Balilihan. (With reports from RVO)