THE Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) is ready to assist Baguio City in addressing the river-water pollution through the installation of modern septic tanks, an official of the agency said on Wednesday.

"Jica is ready to help. We need to do something and let us not make the cleaning of wastewater wait," Jica-Philippine Representative Takema Sakamoto said.

Jica and FujiClean, the Japanese manufacturer of the Onsite wastewater treatment system that can prevent the discharge of polluted and coliform-filled water to the creeks and waterways, conducted a workshop on wastewater treatment systems on Wednesday in cooperation with the City Environment and Parks Management Office (Cepmo) for a better understanding of the technology.

Sakamoto said that while the technology was designed for the needs of Japan, it can be adjusted for the Philippine setting.

"There is room for adjustment based on localized needs," he added.

Baguio was eyed as a possible program implementation site, with the city being the headwater of two major rivers – the Bued and Balili Rivers that traverse the provinces of Benguet and La Union.

The official urged the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) and the city government to look at the possible clustering of residential houses in poor communities and giving them clustered modern septic tanks, which is cheaper than having individual modern septic treatment systems.

"Jica cannot assist individual households but we can extend help to clustered beneficiaries," he added.

The clustered septic tanks, each measuring 2 x 2 x 2.5 meters, costs around P200,000 to P300,000 and can be used by 15 to 20 houses.

He also opened the idea of charging residents with environment and water fees to fund the onsite treatment facilities in households.

The FujiClean said its wastewater treatment system is embedded with components that clean and dissolve sludge, producing clean water that can either be buried on the ground or atop the soil.

Popular fast-food chains in Regions 1, 2 and 3 are currently using the technology in managing food waste, and reduce water pollution, the company said.

"We are lucky we are not formally charged otherwise we will be paying millions in environmental fees. We cannot forever delay action on this," Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, during the program, said.

He said he has already sought a laboratory analysis of the water at the two rivers and found them to be more polluted than the Pasig River in Metro Manila.

In the 1980s, Jica helped the city government construct a sewerage treatment plant with a capacity of 8,600 cubic meters and a 57-kilometer pipeline servicing around 10,000 households and establishments.

However, with the city's population of 320,000 and an estimated 1.5 million tourists in 2019, the facility is no longer able to cope with the demand for wastewater treatment, also putting at risk of contamination of the city's water resources, Magalong added. (PNA)