Let us walk, if not run together, for the Chico River-A A +A
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
THE Baguio Media covering the visit of DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo in Tabuk City, Kalinga chanced upon me while I was posting the photos of our trip via the Abra-Kalinga Road on Facebook at the Golden Berries Hotel. I like this place mainly for a sip of Kalinga Blend coffee and the good internet signal.
After the pleasantries, we talked about the Abra-Kalinga road which remains rugged, dusty, stiff and single lane in many areas except on the Abra side where about 70-80 percent of the road is rehabilitated and cemented. A traveler like me is not so much concerned with the condition of the road though. My attention would rather wander towards the river, trees, plants, birds and the general scenery except when the car stops due to some interruptions on the road.
But such musings are not worth chatting about with my media friends who just came from a meeting with local executives here, and who who made several statements about Bontoc being the source pollutants. Bontoc town is about 4 hours drive away from here and its people must make it their duty to send fresh and clean water down the Chico towards Tabuk City. As the media folks gathered asked me questions about the Chico River, I can only respond relying about how I look at the situation.
Is the water from Bontoc flowing to Tabuk poisonous? What are its effects and impact on agriculture? Apparently they wanted my reactions to what they heard discussed in the meeting they just covered. That is a whole lot to answer, if you ask me, unless we split these concerns into more specific items and concerns. The questions does assume I am knowledgeable about the problems affecting Chico River along with studies done to enlighten and help stakeholders address these problems. I am at a loss. Studies done on the Chico River remain hidden to the public, i there are. I consider this reality and parried the questions in generalities. I would rather that I ask the questions.
As I explained in the interview with the media, it is quite unfair to single out Bontoc as the source of pollution in the Chico River. When I say pollution, I refer to sedimentary and liquid pollution that are by themselves poisonous to fisheries, plants and livestock. This pollution is characteristic of municipal wastewater prevalent in the rivers found in developing countries. It contains various natural and synthetic organic chemicals from the process industries, home wastes, a variety of inorganic substances from domestic and industrial sources, including a number of potentially toxic elements such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, zinc, etc.(WHO).
Determining how much of what from where along the Chico River is where studies should have been or must be made. It is not enough to undertake a pollution study anywhere in the Chico and blame Bontoc as the culprit. There are all kinds of pollution as there are many communities and homes from Mount Data in Bauko, Mountain Province to Tabuk City.
I don’t intend to absolve the municipality of Bontoc for its failure to solve its problem though. What I am saying is solving the Chico River pollution problem requires a deeper look and understanding about the problem. And this problem is a problem of the provinces of Kalinga and Mountain Province mainly; and Cagayan and Isabela at the tail-end of the Chico River. For as long as the problem and concepts involved are not fully considered and understood, we may end up suing each other in the courts; multiply animosities and intrigues and still end up staring at a bigger problem in the face. The cycle goes on and grows; the problem enlarges and multiplies with the growing population and environmental devastation throughout time.
The Chico River passes along communities in Upper Tabuk City. Still in Tabuk City, the Chico is fed by the Saltan River adding more waste to the Chico as it passes by the municipalities of Pasil and Balbalan. After Tabuk City, the Chico collects waste along its path from the communities above the Chico in Lubuagan and Tinglayan in Kalinga.
In Sadanga, there are several tributaries that also flow into the Chico. Reaching Tucocan in Bontoc, where my wife’s folks reside, I had seen how the sand along the shore of the Chico being darkened with a substance that stink like gasoline. There are broken glass and sharp cans in the river bed and along the shore that pose great danger to children swimming in the river. I would like to blame Bontoc too but I know that after Bontoc, the Chico also flows in the middle of the town of Sabangan. There are several tributaries from Sagada and Bauko that also flow into the Chico. I wish I can pick up a tin can, a shard of glass or pieces of plastics and other waste and trace it without doubt to the Bontoc dumpsite, a house or establishment there. I can’t.
The province of Kalinga has yet to file a Writ of Kalikasan against the municipality of Bontoc. The concern is an urgent appeal for all concerned parties to undertake meaningful actions together. Among media friends, I proposed that the provinces of Kalinga and Mountain Province sit together and then do a “walk-through” from Tabuk City following the Chico all the way to Mount Data. In Tabuk City, they must really look at the pollution problems and concerns there. They need to look at the local community’s contribution to the pollution of the Chico in terms of home wastes, industrial waste, construction and agricultural waste. Road building contributes much siltation in our rivers. The state of our mountain slopes due to agriculture adds to this problem. This exercise would present a multitude of problems and solutions. Leaders from both provinces must agree on what the locals need to do and those that require action from the national government and its agencies. The leaders will need to repeat the same framework with the municipalities of Pasil, Balbalan, Lubuagan. Tinglayan, Sadanga, Bontoc, Sagada, Sabangan, and Bauko. All direct and secondary sources of pollution and their solutions will need to be consulted with local residents.
The output of this exercise should ultimately be presented with the Regional Development Council (RDC) in a Chico River Summit in Mount Data, which is the headwater of the Chico River. I discussed this proposition with Kalinga Provincial Agriculturist, Engineer Domingo Bakilan. He suggested that I present this proposal in this write-up and see what happens next. The state of the Chico River and what we determine to do is not only a challenge but a defining moment for our real character as Cordillerans who are aspiring for regional autonomy. In devotion and commitment to common well being, can we walk or run together in solving our problems, including this one?
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 22, 2013.