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Davao Oriental’s world-class bay turns into a virtual cesspool

A study by the Philippine Bureau of Environmental Management shows that fecal coliform contamination in Pujada Bay has already reached more than 2,000 parts per million – well beyond the tolerable level of 200 ppm

DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines — Environmental officials have sounded the alarm over fecal coliform contamination in Pujada Bay in Davao Oriental, which has risen more than 10 times the tolerable level.

Doris Valdesco, head of the Provincial Office of Environment and Natural Resources, blamed the alarming level of contamination in the bay on improper waste disposal, particularly along the coasts of the city of Mati, the capital of the province.

A study by the Philippine Environmental Management Bureau (PEMB) has shown that fecal coliform contamination in Pujada Bay has already reached over 2,000 parts per million, which is well beyond the tolerable level of 200 ppm.

This type of contamination makes fish and shellfish collected from the bay unfit for human consumption, and its waters unsuitable even for swimming, Valdesco said Friday, June 24.

Incidentally, the European Association of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World included Pujada Bay, a government-declared 21,200-hectare protected seascape, in its list of 202 of the best bays in the world.

“I don’t eat shellfish from Pujada Bay,” Valdesco said, citing the tons of trash that has accumulated on its waters over the years.

She said some people go so far as to dive under piles of rubbish up to their necks just to collect shells and then sell them.

“Eat them at your own risk!” Valdesco exclaimed.

She said the sorry state of the bay, considered a jewel in Davao Oriental’s crown, was the result of the thousands of informal settlers who have sprung up near and along the shore.

While the management of protected bays in the country is the responsibility of the national government, Valdesco recommended that the city government of Mati immediately begin dredging the mountains of waste on the bay and a relocation program for informal settlers who turned him into a cesspool.

“Interventions led by the city government of Mati to clean up the bay and relocate informal settlers living along the coasts are a step in the right direction. There is no miracle solution to this problem. I think one of the city government’s plans is to set up a centralized sewage system for informal settlers,” Valdesco said.

Mati municipal government environmental management specialist Jovelyn Lugo said the local government has yet to see the results of the water sampling.

“In our Pujada Bay cleanup campaign, we hire divers to take out the trash. We also exploit the residents living along the Pujada Bay coastlines,” Lugo said.

Alfeo Piloton, retired director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said he had long suspected that faecal coliform contamination in Pujada Bay had reached worrying levels.

“During my time in Davao Oriental as Provincial Head of BFAR, no water sampling was done. A lot of people made the bay their toilet bowl,” Piloton said.

He also blamed mining operations along the coasts of Pujada Bay for the polluted waters.

The U-shaped Pujada Bay, characterized by backdrop mountain ranges, white sand beaches and calm waters, is a scenic spot that is part of the Philippine Sea facing the Pacific Ocean. –