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Note from Since is especially directed at foreigners considering visiting or retiring in Iloilo, we want to make it clear that the pollution problem in Iloilo City described in the following article is similar to what one will find in other Philippine cities.  Despite the problems, the Iloilo River is a scenic asset. There are numerous hotels and restaurants directly on the Iloilo River. Whatever its biological condition, for the visitor, the Iloilo River seems quite attractive, not at all like a giant septic tank. We don’t recall seeing or smelling pollution in the river, probably because the river is so strongly tidal that the waste is flushed out to sea.  That said, here’s the article:

Iloilo River with Customs House in background.  Photo taken at ferry dock for Bacolod ferries.

Iloilo River with Customs House in background. Photo taken at ferry dock for Bacolod ferries.


ONE HUNDRED FORTY of the total 180 barangays in Iloilo City have virtually made the once beautiful and majestic Iloilo River as giant septic tank.

This is the reason why the river at the heart of the metropolis is dying, said City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) chief, Engr. Noel Hechanova.

Compounding the pollution problem is the wastewater from hospitals, hotels, commercial establishments, and households freely discharged to the river.

Fishkills have become a regular occurrence at the river because of the unabated pollution it absorbs.

“There’s a problem of low dissolved oxygen caused by organic load from human wastes. The impact is fish kill and death of aquatic animals and plants. Septic tanks should serve as partial treatment of human wastes considering the city has no centralized sewage treatment facility,” Hechanova told The Daily Guardian.

“We should build a sewage treatment facility to at least reduce the organic load being discharged to the river,” he added.

Hechanova said the City Hall must pass an ordinance that will require households to clean their septic tanks every three years.

He said the common practice is that the septic tanks are not dislodged until these are full, thus overflowing to the drainage system.

The proposed sewage ordinance, Hechanova explained, will provide a management office and disposal guidelines for this purpose.

How much it will cost to treat the sewage in the city?

Hechanova said building a centralized sewage treatment facility would cost P80million.

Initially, they are trying to source out P3million for the project’s feasibility study and engineering plan through a funding assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) or United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“It’s a very expensive and large project. Even in Manila with two million population, only some 2,000 have been connected to the sewage treatment facility,” Hechanova said.

The Cenro chief said they have been advocating since 2004 for the USAID-supported Local Initiatives for Affordable Wastewater Treatment (LINAW) project to be replicated here.

Meanwhile, a “low-cost” P4-million wastewater treatment plant has been piloted in the city’s new slaughterhouse in Barangay Tacas, Jaro.

Hechanova said they have been encouraging hospitals to install wastewater treatment plant. In fact, they are offering their technical assistance and are making study tours for hospital administrators to help them realize this facility.

So far, only Iloilo Doctors’ Hospital has established its own wastewater treatment facility.

Hechanova said malls including SM, Robinsons, and Gaisano, retail store Makro, fast food chain Red Ribbon and three big oil companies Petron, Shell and Caltex are likewise equipped with wastewater treatment plants.

St. Paul’s Hospital which sits right on the riverbank and Iloilo Mission Hospital have of late started establishing their wastewater treatment plants.

Hechanova said establishments may use chemicals to treat their wastewater but it’s expensive and not sustainable. In the long run it is cheaper to have a wastewater treatment plant.

For failure to set up wastewater treatment facilities, businesses will be penalized for non-compliance with the Clean Water Act that requires treatment of toilet wastes prior to disposal.

Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Economic Development Council

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