ON Saturday, January 15, photos of bodies of water in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental turning orange went viral on social media.

“On January 14, 2022, a heavy siltation incident happened along Mapagda River, Banaybanay, Davao Oriental after heavy rains occurred for more than 12 hours with an accumulated rainfall intensity of 111MM from January 13 at 12 noon to January 14 at 5 a.m. The large volume of water allegedly may have resulted in such siltation that caused discoloration of the said river,” the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Davao Region said in a statement over the weekend.

Jhonnel Villegas, an instructor at Davao Oriental State University and holds a master’s degree in biology, said in a Facebook post that “nearby river tributaries are surprisingly clear without traces of discoloration.”

Based on their discussions with locals, they attribute the incident to mining activities upstream.

He added that a similar discoloration incident happened in Barangay Causwagan in December 2020. But it has been cleared now and cases have been filed against a mining operator.

Just like any other body of water, Mapagda River and its tributaries are important to the community that lives nearby. The community utilizes the river for everyday use like doing their laundry or for their livelihood. Hence, whatever happens to it, could gravely affect the community that lives along the river.

But it is not only the community that is affected. The ecosystem that is being supported by the river is also affected. From wild animals that drink water from the river to the fishes living in it.

This is a serious incident that the DENR and local government unit (LGU) must resolve.

The regional office said it has deployed an investigating team to assess and evaluate the cause of the incident.

“The team is composed of personnel from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB XI), Environmental Management Bureau (EMB XI), and Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Lupon,” DENR-Davao said.

We ardently hope the DENR and LGU investigate the incident objectively and without bias. We hope their decisions will be for the environment and benefit of the community.