Kalinga officials press writ with RDC-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
TABUK CITY – Kalinga officials are taking the issue of the pollution of the Chico River to the Regional Development Council (RDC).
Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac, who presided over the Provincial Development Council meeting, agreed to elevate the discussion on the continued dumping of waste materials in the Caluttit dumpsite in Bontoc town, which eventually goes down to the Chico River.
Baac, who also serves as chairman of the RDC, said they have to press on Mt. Province officials to take action as reports point to the dumpsite as the source of contamination of the Chico River.
Dominic Sugguiyao, Kalinga Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) specialist, reported before the Provincial Development Council initial findings of environmental organization Ban Toxics, regional watchdog for Asia, on the accumulation of toxic chemicals in the Chico River.
Sugguiyao reported the organization conducted a test right above the Caluttit dumpsite in Bontoc, Mt. Province using lumex technology to measure the mercury level in air and the findings were staggering high levels.
He said the Kalinga Provincial Government also conducted a test for mercury levels in the water, which are at low levels and initially associated with small scale mining activities.
However, with the recent report from Ban Toxics, mercury contamination may probably have accumulated through time into the Chico River from the dumpsite where electronic materials have been dumped since the 1970s.
The Kalinga Provincial Government pursued a Writ of Kalikasan petition against the municipality of Bontoc and Mt. Province Provincial Government, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional executive director and the Environmental Management Bureau as respondents.
The Provincial Government pressed on charges on fears that continued dumping by Mt. Province will further affect the water quality of the river and later on affect the rice lands primarily irrigated by water from Chico. The province also noticed the decline in fishes thriving in the river and its tributaries.
The Penro specialist claimed the local government of Bontoc continues to disregard the case and allegedly has kept on dumping in the area.
He added that Ban Toxics team will return to the dumpsite to verify test results, conduct interviews and gather witnesses from Mainit and Sagada, places where air and fumes from the dumpsite are often carried by the wind.
The additional tests from Ban Toxics will be added as evidences in the Writ of Kalikasan case now pending before the Court of Appeals.
In Tabuk City, Mayor Ferdinand Tubban expressed his worry on the further contamination of the Chico River which may affect the agricultural production of the town.
He said they are afraid people aware of the contamination of the river might be apprehensive in buying rice produced in Tabuk.
“Even without a court order they should refrain from dumping waste into the Chico River. Tabuk City is most affected because it is an agricultural city as it could contaminate of our farm products. They should place measures to reduce their waste and handle solid waste following existing environmental laws,” he said.
Department of Agriculture information officer Robert Domoguen also confirmed the possible effects of the contamination of Chico River on agricultural products, especially palay which may absorb through bioaccumulation toxic materials such as mercury since the National Irrigation Administration sources out their water from the river.
The DA official said the contamination of the river, aggravated by years by siltation, also has drastic effects on irrigation facilities.
He suggested both provincial governments should conduct a joint investigation and a walkthrough of the entire river stretch to settle things to pinpoint not only the Bontoc dumpsite but also other possible towns that contribute to the water pollution.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 22, 2013.