Warning signs at ‘dirty’ Kanlaob River mulled
Kristine B. Quintas (The Freeman) - November 29, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, who heads the Provincial Board committee on tourism, yesterday said they won’t recommend the closure of Kanlaob River in the southern towns of Alegria and Badian despite reports on bacteria contamination there.

She said they do not see the need to close down the canyoneering site since there are still other measures that can be adopted to address the problem.

“We can’t because there are other measures that can be undertaken to alter the problem,” she said.

One measure, she said, is to install signages along the banks of the river warning the public that the “the water is not safe for drinking.”

This, however, did not sit well with Alegria Mayor Verna Magallon, who is not keen on putting up the signages as it is tantamount to “bad publicity.”

“It’s not a good idea to put up the signages kay ma-conscious na ‘noon ang mga tourists. Putting up signages and this newspaper report is causing bad image sa canyoneering,” she told The FREEMAN over the phone.

“It’s unfair for us. This is bad publicity and bad timing,” she added.

Magallon said they exerted a lot of effort to promote canyoneering as a tourist attraction in their place in time for the town’s fiesta celebration on December 2 to 3.

“Dili helpful sa municipality. Nganong gi-single out ang Kanlaob River? Ngano wa gi-test ang water sa ubang tourist destination sites?” she said.

Magpale said Provincial Tourism Officer Joselito "Boboi" Costas is proposing the purchase of equipment that can easily be used to conduct water sampling tests.

She said other eco-tourism sites in the province like the Aguinid falls in Samboan town would also be checked for the presence of E. coli and fecal coliform.

The vice governor stressed the importance of informing the public on the present situation of the river.

“We also discussed the possibility of losing tourists, but it’s our obligation to inform the public. We have to weigh-in between the negative publicity and responsible tourism. We cannot withhold the information. We can’t hide it because we have a responsibility to our public and (the) tourists,” she said.

Magallon said it is expected for Kanlaob River and other bodies of water to be contaminated with bacteria since they are open to the public and tourists.

She claimed that the situation is not something to be worried about or to cause an alarm.

“Locals and tourists should not worry about it. We will do something to have it addressed,” she said.

She said she has already directed the barangays to each pass an ordinance prohibiting the presence of livestock meters from the river bank.

Farmers, she said, would not also be allowed to clean their farm tools and equipment in the river.

“Aron ma-maintain nato ang kalimpyo sa river,” the mayor said.

She also said that they have been distributing toilet bowls especially to upland barangays and far-flung sitios to help solve the contamination issue.

She said, though, that while they have already distributed a thousand toilet bowls, there are still households in the upland barangays that do not have sanitary toilets.

Magallon said they understand that the town sees the need to “improve” sanitation at the vicinity of the river and they are addressing it by providing comfort rooms.

Badian Tourism Officer Donald Villarin, on the other hand, claimed that the source of E. coli is not Badian but Alegria town.

“Ang hugaw gikan sa mga balay ug livestock sa Barangay Lepanto, which is in between two valley in Alegria, mo-erode sa river. Ang Badian side, canyon naman so walay mga balay duol sa river. Ang source sa E. coli sa Alegria gyud,” he told The FREEMAN in a telephone interview.

He said there are no houses located near the river in Badian’s upland barangays, thus, it is “impossible” that the source of E. coli is Badian.

In Barangay Sulsugan, for instance, Villarin said, the nearest houses at least 200 meters from the river bank.

He admitted that Kanlaob River is “dirty” compared to Matutinao River, which was considered to be the cleanest inland body of water in the Philippines in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

According to the World Health Organization, diseases which may be present in water that tests positive for coliform bacteria include typhoid fever, cholera, hepatitis, dysentery, and giardiasis. In most cases, the illness is self-limiting, but it may lead to a life-threatening disease, including hemolytic uremic syndrome, especially in young children and the elderly.

Villarin said they have already installed two warning signages at the entrance points in Barangays Matutinao and Sulsugan.

Magpale said Badian and Alegria officials must step up to prevent their constituents from using the river as a water source.

She advised town officials to install a water chlorinator to treat the water the residents would use.

Governor Hilario Davide has assured that the province would help the towns.

“Dagha’g tae dira. Mga tao bisa’g asa lang malibang.  Mga Pilipino pay imo. That’s also one aspect nga gitutokan jud sa atong government. We’re doing our job,” he said.

Both Magallon and Villarin, though, said their towns so far have no cases of diseases caused by the E.coli bacteria.

Villarin said the town’s source of water is the spring in Barangay Basak, which is located near the central barangays.

“Wala man mi nadawat na reports nga dunay local or tourist nga nagkasakit tungod sa E.coli,” Magallon said. —with Intern Izhar Seth Alo (FREEMAN)


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