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Baguio offers contract piggeries to hog raisers polluting rivers

/ 05:00 AM July 20, 2019

BAGUIO CITY—Hog raisers, who have been blamed for polluting the city’s rivers, have been offered contract piggery farms outside Baguio as the government prepares to shut them down.

About 260 backyard piggeries were told to stop or relocate last year by a task force that enforced a city ban on chicken and hog raising due to high concentration of fecal coliform that had been detected at the Balili and Bued rivers for years.

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These rivers flow to Benguet towns, so the city’s municipal neighbors, Tuba and Sablan, have each offered 1-hectare lots for pig farms that would process hog waste using biogas digesters.

The hog raisers can make use of a P10-million fund from the Department of Agriculture, said Moises Lozano, who monitors wastewater for the environment and parks management.

Community rituals

But some backyard raisers have rejected the contract farm option, saying they raise pigs for community rituals. “We help clean the environment. We are all trash pickers and we feed kitchen waste to our pigs,” said a hog raiser.

Others resented being singled out by the government. “We have septic tanks and we put hog waste in sacks for our gardens,” another raiser said.

River pollutants

Market waste, the local slaughterhouse and an underperforming wastewater treatment plant also contribute to river pollution, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

But the city government is making the first step to solve this problem by reducing or eliminating waste from small piggeries located in interior villages, Philip Puzon, chief of staff of Mayor Benjamin Magalong, said.

Some piggeries put up their own septic systems, on the understanding that they would close after two years due to the city’s river pollution crisis, Lozano said.

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Sewage system

Baguio’s bigger problem is its sewage system. DENR credits the city for installing its own sewage treatment plant, which was built through a Japanese grant in 1986.

But the plant processes daily 8,600 cubic meters of wastewater from more than 2,000 households and establishments operating in the central business district (CBD).

Before the plant was built, Baguio was sued by La Trinidad, the Benguet capital and a major vegetable producer to where the Balili River flows from the city.

La Trinidad said the American-built sewer lines of Baguio discharged water directly into the river.

Wastewater disposal

“The water quality of the Balili River, however, still remains polluted due to indiscriminate wastewater disposal from homes, commercial structures, piggeries and other sources,” said a study commissioned last year by World Water Council.

The study said “private septic tanks are still predominantly used [by an estimated 67 percent of Baguio’s total households], since sewer lines are only found in the CBD.”

“The financing, design, construction, installation and maintenance of [septic tanks] are the owners’ responsibility … [and some of these tanks] have effluents that drain to a canal or to a water body,” the study said.

During a meeting with the city council on Tuesday, Magalong said the city intended to connect households to treatment facilities by building sewer pipes in the villages or by building new treatment plants, to address a growing population.

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TAGS: Baguio, Hog Raisers, Livelihood
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