River deaths prompt execs to restudy safety steps

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CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Local officials in Pampanga are exploring other life-saving measures as they find it difficult to enforce the swimming ban in seven coastal towns along Pampanga River after seven people, five of them children, died in two incidents last week.

“That’s easy to say but difficult to do. We should exert other efforts to make the people safe,” said Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, head of the Pampanga Mayors’ League (PML), on Tuesday.

The Pampanga Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, through its acting head, Lulu Alingcastre, asked local counterparts to “implement strict prohibitions on swimming, boating and other fun exercises in communities along Pampanga River without parental consent and lifeguard.”

Municipal councils in Arayat, Candaba, San Luis, San Simon, Apalit, Masantol and Macabebe towns were also told to “advise residents to put up perimeter fences in their backyard adjacent to Pampanga River to serve as protection,” Alingcastre said.

Pelayo said the ban is being ignored, as residents take to the water to escape the extreme heat.

“It’s like in Manila. There’s a ban to swim in the dirty waters of Manila Bay and police are even deployed there to stop people. But thousands do come and swim,” he said.

In the seven towns, Pelayo said parents should be in the front line of ensuring the safety of their children. He said the PML has asked barangay councils to erect signboards warning against swimming and boating.

The long coastline makes it difficult to guard residents against swimming, said Mayor Venancio Macapagal of San Luis, where five people drowned on April 9. The victims were visitors who used a fiber glass boat that was not travel-worthy, he said.

“It is easy to inform our constituents. What is difficult is you cannot be there all the time to watch them or stop them,” said Macapagal.

Two girls, both residents of Apalit, drowned on April 10, as they tried to learn swimming. Macapagal said the recent drowning gave people a lesson in safety.

These coastal towns are among the old places in Pampanga, which derived its name from the word “pampang,” which means riverbanks.

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