Baguio’s battle vs illegal, unregulated water deep wells take multi-stakeholder tact

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
Baguio�s battle vs illegal, unregulated water deep wells take multi-stakeholder tact
This undated file photo shows the city hall of Baguio.
Baguio City Facebook page

BAGUIO CITY — The city government of Baguio, through the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), will soon collaborate with the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR) in the battle against illegal and unregulated deep wells.

Once a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the city government, NWRB and DENR-CAR is formalized, efforts to end perennial woes on illegal deep wells that has contributed to problems on the city’s aquifers.

Last June 10, the Baguio City Council passed a resolution granting Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong the authority to enter into a MOA with NWRB and DENR.

This cooperation is seen as beneficial for Baguio in terms of regulating groundwater extraction. It will specifically focus on monitoring groundwater appropriation, control, and conservation within the city’s jurisdiction, aligning with the initiative to enforce relevant national laws.

Through the MOA, the city government will be able to establish cooperative areas where the city can support and enhance the roles of the national agencies. This partnership will tackle clandestine well operations through enhanced monitoring, thereby mitigating water shortages and contamination problems.

The Baguio City Water Resources Board (RCWB) has been working with the NWRB to regulate groundwater extraction and manage other water-related concerns. However, surveys conducted by the BCWRB revealed a growing number of unregulated deep well and shallow well operations in the city.

These illegal operations have led to a decline in underground aquifers, causing frequent water shortages. This problem manifests especially during peak tourism seasons.

As of January 2024, up to 1,000 deep wells were found to be operating illegally in the city, with only 200 having permits from the NWRB.

Without permits, oversight of compliance with health standards for operating deep wells is not possible. Permitted wells undergo periodic testing to ensure that water quality meets health standards.

Currently, NWRB has the authority to shut down deep wells while the city government can only mandate operators to obtain permits from NWRB.

The rigorous crackdown on illegal deep wells, part of this joint effort, aims to prevent a recurrence of the diarrhea outbreak earlier this year that affected over 3,000 individuals here.

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