To prevent the further degradation of the country’s waterways just like what happened to Manila Bay and its tributaries, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is urging local government units (LGUs) not to issue building permits to establishments unless their design of the hygienic septic tank or wastewater treatment facility conforms with existing environmental laws and policies.
“Let us learn from the lessons of Manila Bay which became a ‘gigantic septic tank’ and Boracay which was described as ‘a virtual cesspool’. Local governments should already put their foot down by not issuing business permits to non-compliant establishments,” says DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año says.
Año also says that “no new business permit should be issued unless business owners have obtained the necessary environmental clearances and permits such as discharge permits and environmental sanitation certificates prescribed by laws or required by the Department of Health, Laguna Lake Development Authority, Department of Health and its instrumentalities.”
In memorandum circular 2019-62, the DILG Secretary stresses that LGUs should ensure that all residential, private, and public establishments in their areas must have proper sewage treatment and septage management system.
“Local governments should compel all residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and government establishments in their jurisdiction to have their own hygienic septic tanks or wastewater treatment facility,” he says.
Año also says that LGUs must also see to it that all septic tanks are accessible and that no wastewater shall be discharged to waterways without any proper treatment.
For establishments with inaccessible or non-compliant septic tanks, the DILG Chief says they may opt to remodel or restructure it, connect to existing sewer lines of water utilities, or construct communal or shared septic tank.
Food establishments discharging wastes are also encouraged to have a working and properly maintained oil and grease strap installed in their respective areas.
In the same directive, Año mentions the importance of having regular desludging of septic tanks at least once every five years to be performed only by the water utility or a private desludging company accredited by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the help of barangay officials.
He says LGUs should map out programs and implement actions through the Enactment of Sewage Treatment and Septage Management Ordinance (SSMO) to support the drive.
Said ordinances must include provisions on giving of sanctions to erring owners and users of establishments and structures without proper sanitation facilities, as well as on providing award incentives to those which have complied with the directive, he says.
Early this year, as Manila Bay rehabilitation efforts kicked off, several establishments were tagged negligent and eventually faced closures for discharging untreated wastewater in Manila Bay, posting potential threats to the environment according to the DENR.