LB prepares for disasters

by: Paulo Luis S. Zipagan

Ensuring health and proper sanitation in evacuation centers should always be one of the priorities of local government units (LGUs) in times of disasters.

As stated in the 2009 World Health Organization Country Office Philippine Health Cluster Situation Report, the top five common diseases in evacuation centers are upper respiratory tract infection, fever, skin disease, infected wounds, and diarrhea. In 2015, DOH spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy in emphasized that these diseases can be easily transferred because evacuation centers are congested.

In Barangay Bayog of Los Baños, for instance, health workers check on evacuees camped in evacuation centers and focus on children. A bridge located a few meters away from the Barangay Hall with tents serves as the barangay’s evacuation center during disasters since it is the only elevated part of the barangay. Rural health workers bring medicine to treat common communicable diseases, such as colds and cough. In such a setting, health management and sanitation could be a challenge, and the local government recognizes this concern.

Responding to the need for sanitary facilities, the local government built temporary toilets within the school compound. The said toilets are located far from classrooms where evacuees stay but are still accessible.

Communicable diseases and sanitation problems abound during disasters, hence the need for quick and proper response from authorities.

Camp management and coordination

The municipal government of Los Baños will be holding a camp coordination and camp management training on the year 2016 for the benefit of barangays. Spearheaded by the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) and the Municipal Social Welfare Development Office (MSWDO), this initiative is a humanitarian assistance that addresses internally displaced people (IDPs) and provides people with their basic needs and rights while they stay in temporary shelters.

Ideally, a camp or evacuation center should provide the basic needs of a person every day, such as food, water, shelter, and clothing. In the Draft Manual for Evacuation Camp Management, the WHO standards for evacuation centers is explained. Among such standards include the provision of 20 liters of water per person per day.

Camp leaders step up

Each camp has a designated camp leader whose role it is to ensure that guidelines and needs are addressed. A camp manager can be a barangay tanod, a barangay health worker, or a male or female resident. To be a camp manager, one should have attended a camp management training conducted by the LGU or any designated agency.
A camp manager maintains peace and order within an evacuation center, ensures the protection of evacuees from diseases, and takes steps to provide an evacuation center that is clean and conducive for living.

According to Cynthia Quintans, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer, mothers or even community members may serve as camp managers or leaders because they know the people within their community. According to her, having mothers as camp managers is beneficial owing to the care that mothers are known to give their children. “Maganda na yung mga nanay mismo ang nandoon para macheck at maalagaan yung evacuees,” Quintans said. (It’s good that the mothers are there to check and take care of the evacuees.)

A camp manager is expected to implement rules. The LGU prescribes certain policies with regard to camp management, but the camp manager has the option to completely follow these rules or introduce new ones depending on local conditions.

Among the basic rules are the following:
1. The evacuees are tasked to clean the room (evacuation area)
2. They should maintain cleanliness
3. Things inside the room like chairs and tables should be maintained in good condition
4. Avoid touching or destroying of displays or decorations inside the room/s especially when a class room is used as an evacuation center

Lack of coordination

Unfortunately, not everyone cooperates and obeys the rules in evacuation centers, as seen in destruction of some classroom features after the families leave. There are also residents who do not clean up their designated spaces, such as sleeping areas, and common spaces, such as comfort rooms.

“Yung mga CR hindi nila masyadong name-maintain, tapos pagpasok mo may malansang amoy—s’yemrpe doon sila natutulog, doon sila kumakain”, she narrated. (The CRs are not properly maintained, and when you walk into the classroom, you can smell foul odors–of course this is because families sleep and eat there.)

The lack of cooperation is a major concern that has been brought up by other residents. The camp manager is the one needed to address this problem. He or she is tasked to ensure that evacuees cooperate and abide by the rules applied in that certain evacuation center.

A better, bigger ‘camp’

In the future, cramped spaces and congested evacuation centers will no longer be a problem in this part of Los Banos as a 20-million peso multi-purpose evacuation center will be built this year.

To be located within the area of Barangay Baybayin the new evacuation center is the size of a covered court or basketball court. Its features include a gender-friendly space, children’s space, WASH area, and conjugal area. (Quintans refused to disclose more details about the evacuation center because the process of presenting the design is ongoing.)

According to Barangay Baybayin Kagawad Thomas Josephus Baes, the new evacuation center will face Laguna de Bay. He assured that the area does not get flooded. “Although facing siya sa Laguna Lake, never namang umabot yung tubig doon,” he added. (Although the evacuation center is facing Laguna Lake, the water never reached the part that it will be built.)

In the past, people evacuated to a bridge and a school in Barangay Bayog and a barangay hall in Barangay Baybayin. These two barangays are among the most flood-prone in the municipality.

Once the new evacuation center is ready for use, some schools will not be used as evacuation center especially for barangays near the new evacuation center and a new challenge for camp managers since this is a bigger camp.


Laguna Lake view from Barangay Bayog, one of the most flooded-prone araes in Los Baños. Photo by Paulo Luis Zipagan

Prioritizing disaster preparedness

Disaster preparedness is a priority of the government in both the national and local levels because the Philippines is considered the 4th most disaster prone country in the world, with 274 recorded disasters since 1995 according to the Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters report.

In compliance with the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2013-1 by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Department of Budget and Management, and Department of Interior and Local Government, the barangay allots 5% of its annual budget to disaster preparations. The fund is used for buying tools and equipment for disaster preparedness and also in food provisions.

In Barangay Baybayin, a Barangay Emergency Response Team was formed. It comprises of different committees, such as those in-charge for evacuation, relief, medical assistance, and warning. Each team has its own tasks and responsibilities when responding to disasters.

According to Baes, the teams immediately prepare after getting information when a typhoon threatens the barangay. “Agad agad kaming nagmi-meeting kapag may ganyan,” he said. (We immediately meet during those times).

To further improve disaster management skills, several representatives from different barangays in Los Banos responded to the call of Albay governor Joey Salceda for a DRRM training held in coordination with the International Rice Research Institute. According to Quintans, attending such a training was necessary for improvements in DRRM in Los Baños.

Among the new skills to be developed in the training is rappelling. Quintans said that rappelling is a skill needed because there are instances or situations wherein people who needed to be evacuated are those that live under a bridge.

Serving the community

In serving the community, Quintans said that one needs a big heart because everything done during disaster response and other forms of community service is on a voluntary basis.

“Dito kasi unang-una kailangan malaki yung puso mo na nandito ka lalo na kapag may disaster regardless of may family ka na dapat isecure though alam mo na secured sila,” Quintans said. (You need to have a big heart during times of disasters regardless of securing your family even though you know they are safe.)

Volunteers, such as camp managers and disaster response teams, do not receive any monetary rewards from the local government yet they continue on serving their fellow community members.

Furthermore, Quintans emphasized that all agencies are anchored to the MDRRMO that is why their response to calamities are systematic.

Sanitation Officer Wilson Gascon of the Municipal Health Office on cooperating during calamities added that “connected naman kami lahat sa LGU. In times na iyon nga, may typhoon tayo, talagang ina-advise na kami ng mayor’s office standby.” (We are all connected to the LGU especially in times of typoon. The Mayor’s office advises as to be on standby)

With all these preparations, the services to be provided in terms of ensuring health and sanitation in evacuation centers is expected to improve now that a camp management training is under its way. This is not only for the benefit of the evacuees but also for the overall DRRM of Los Baños.

Septage management in LB

by Rhemil C. Palileo

Every year, five out of 100 people in the Philippines die from illnesses related to water, sanitation, and hygiene, according to the World Health Organization.

In support of policies pertaining to improving public health, Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act was implemented in 2004 to serve as legal basis of local government units’ programs that roll out sewerage and septage management programs in their respective localities.

Pursuant to RA 9275, the Laguna Water District Aquatech Resources Corporation (LARC, formerly Laguna Water District) signed on August 7, 2009 a Memorandum of Understanding with the municipal governments of Los Baños, Bay, Calauan, and Victoria and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement the septage management program (SMP). On the basis of this agreement, the program has started.

According to Engr. Emil Puerto, who is LARC Operations Group Manager, the SMP will be fully implemented year 2020. Technical support in the form of technical and feasibility studies have been extended by USAID.

Program Mechanism

The program provides for LARC to desludge septic tanks of their concessionaires once every five years. The sludge will be transported to the septage treatment plant, popularly known as the Fully Mechanized Facility or FMF, located in Barangay Puypuy, Bay, Laguna where it will be treated before being returned to the waterways. The plant is owned by Envirokonsult Equipment and Services, Inc.

“We (LARC) are planning to have a joint venture with them (Envirokonsult) or procure the whole plant,” Puerto said.

The proposed desludging fee is 12.5% of the monthly water bill of a concessionaire.

For instance, Elvira Tamisin of Barangay Mayondon, Los Banos pays P500 every month for her household’s water consumption. Desludging fee to be collected from her will amount to P62.50 per month or a total of P3,750 (P62.50 x 12 months x 5 years).

She said that she does not mind the payment because the money goes to pay for a very important service. “Okay lang naman sakin kasi pag puno na yung poso negro, di na maganda sa kapaligiran. Saka ang hirap [pag hindi ganito ang setup]–kunyari kay Malabanan (a private company engaged in desludging business) magpasipsip, pag natapat na wala kang pera. Kaya mas okay na paunti-unti ang bayad,” Tamisin added. (I am okay with that arrangement especially if our septic tank is full, that is not good. In the usual setup, such as when availing of Malabanan services, it is difficult if desludging will happen at a time when you don’t have enough money. It is better to pay small amounts.)

Private desludgers collect P5,000 to P7,000 for every desludging.

SMP also involves barangay units that will later be commissioned by the LARC to remove the cement cover of septic tanks prior to the scheduled desludging to save on time. This way, when the tanker arrives in the area, desludging can proceed immediately.

Delays in the bureaucracy

However, Engr. Puerto cited a problem in implementing the program.

“Hindi pa na-ratify yung ordinance sa Los Baños na gagawing mandatory ang desludging sa mga bahay. We are not yet fully implementing the program kasi di pa kami nag-e-establish ng tariff kasi we’re waiting for the municipal council to ratify the ordinance,” he said. (The ordinance has yet to be ratified that will make desludging mandatory among households in Los Baños. We are not yet fully implementing the program because we have not established the tariff.)

An ordinance is necessary to establish the mechanism and enforcement of the SMP. The municipal council has already drafted an ordinance and is currently waiting for its ratification.

People awareness and participation

LARC also recognizes that awareness is key in implementing the program. The organization sends out couriers to disseminate leaflets about the program, usually during the checking of water consumption meters of customers. It also used to conduct information and education campaign but had to stop the activity pending the ordinance.

Odeth Sampao, a resident of Mayondon, admitted that she is unaware of the program. She also said that her household has not had their septic tank desludged ever since their house was constructed in 1994.

“Parang di pa naman napupuno eh. Kung puno na okay lang [magpa-desludge],” she said. (I think the septic tank is far from being full. When it is full, desludging will be okay.)

At the moment, LARC caters to households who voluntarily avail of desludging services. The process starts with customers contacting LARC and LARC endorsing them to the plant. In this arrangement, households pay directly to the plant. According to Puerto, out of the 32,000 service connections, less than 1% has contacted them to have their septic tanks desludged.

“Gusto naman ng mga tao, ang isyu palagi is magkano. Sabi pa nung iba is bakit ko babayaran yan eh maruming tubig na yan,” Puerto, who is an industrial engineering graduate, lamented. (What people are usually concerned about is cost. One resident even asked why there is a need for them to pay for dirty water.)

Risks to health and environment

Puerto also said that many people do not see desludging as a way to help save their immediate environment from contamination. He added that septic tanks should be desludged every 5-7 years to maintain efficiency and prevent overflow that can lead to groundwater contamination.

According to a report by the (USAID) and the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), poor sanitation and hygiene practices can cause many diseases, such as diarrhea, typhoid, and hepatitis A. These practices also include unsanitary toilet areas, poor personal hygiene practices especially after using the toilet, open defecation especially near water sources, lack of protection or treatment of drinking water, poor food preparation practices, and lack of latrine and water-source protection in flood-prone areas.

Gliceria de Guzman, a resident of Barangay Malinta, expressed willingness to participate in the program provided that proper water treatment will be done and waste will not be dumped to bodies of water. She expressed concern about waste management by current service providers, such as Malabanan, and wondered where these companies dump the waste they collect.

There is also the problem of indigents who don’t have water service connections and thus use dysfunctional sanitation facilities. According to WHO, 31 percent of rural residents and 21 percent of urban residents still do not use improved sanitation facilities. The Philippine Statistics Authority also reported that 14.5 percent of Filipino families use unsafe source of water from unprotected well, spring, river, pond, lake, rain water, and tanker truck or peddler.

Puerto said that improper construction of septic tanks can lead to contamination of shallow wells, which are the water source of families who cannot avail of piped and treated water, thus increasing the risk of them contacting hepatitis and typhoid fever.

“Nag-test kami one time ng water sa shallow wells somewhere here in Los Baños. We found out na may shallow well or poso na ang katabi ay poso negro. Di pa sealed yung pinaka-ilalim. We also found out that there is an intrusion na ng E.coli sa water nila,” Puerto narrated. (Once we tested shallow wells somewhere in Los Baños. We found out that there are shallow wells or water pumps directly beside septic tanks of households. These septic tanks do not have sealed or cemented bottoms. We also found that water in these areas have E.coli.)

For its part, LARC is addressing the issue by extending water services to indigent areas. It plans to construct, as part of its corporate social responsibility, an interceptor for communities where households have no septic tanks.

Improper sanitation, haphazard human waste disposal, and dysfunctional water treatment programs affect lives. According to WHO, diarrhea is the fourth leading cause of death of Filipino children below five years old. There is still a lot to be done to improve health and sanitation in the Philippines. Implementing an efficient septage management program is just one.

According to Puerto, who also resides in Los Baños, it is high time for people to support the program to save the ground and surface water. Non-cooperation will eventually lead to widespread contamination that will in turn require doubled efforts for treatment.

Los Banos MHO: Community vs dengue despite vaccine


This gallery contains 2 photos.

by Andrea Therese Canivel The Los Baños Municipal Health Office (MHO) continues to promote community sanitation efforts to prevent the spread of dengue notwithstanding the free school-based immunization (SBI) program of the Department of Health (DOH) that started April this year. … Continue reading

Partial Unofficial Results

PPCRV-KBP Election 2016 Count
from the COMELEC Transparency Server
Unofficial Election Results
(President, Vice-president, Senators)

PPCRV-KBP Election 2016 Count
from the COMELEC Transparency Server
Unofficial Election Results
(Governor, Vice-governor, Provincial Board, Congressman)

May 9 Elections: Paciano Rizal, Bay

Ulat ni Mary Edrielle Valiente

UPDATE (5:38 PM)

Sa ganap na 5:00 PM sa Paaralang Elementarya ng Paciano Rizal (PEPR) ay hindi pa rin dumarating ang bagong vote counting machine (VCM). Wala nang nakapila upang bumoto.

Dalawang VCM ang nasira sa PEPR ngayong araw ng eleksyon. ang una ay nasira ng alas otso ng umaga matapos ang ika-48 na botante, ngunit agad ding nakumpuni. Ang ikalawa ay nasira ng alas dyes ng umaga at hindi na napalitan. Ang mga balota ng mga nakatalaga sa presintong ito ay inilalagay sa loob ng isang kahon ayon sa pahintulot ng COMELEC

UPDATE (3:02 PM)

Ang isang vote counting machine (VCM) sa Paaralang Elementarya ng Paciano Rizal (PEPR) sa Bay, Laguna ay nasira kaninang alas dyes ng umaga at kasalukuyang hindi pa rin gumagana.

Ayon kay Gng. Maiel Luzande, punongguro ng PEPR, ang VCM ay hindi makatanggap ng balota matapos ang ika-151 na botante. Ang solusyon na kanilang ikinonsulta sa COMELEC ay ang pagpapatuloy ng botohan ngunit ang mga balota ay itinatabi lamang muna sa isang kahon. Ang mga botante ay pipirma muna sa isang waiver na nagsasabing pumapayag sila sa ganitong proseso bago sila tuluyang pabotohin.

Ang COMELEC ay may ipadadalang bagong VCM ngayong hapon.

(1:40 PM) Ang isang vote counting machine sa Paaralang Elementarya ng Paciano Rizal sa Bay, Laguna ay hindi gumana ng humigit-kumulang 30 minuto kaninang alas otso ng umaga. Ito ay nagdulot ng pagtagal sa pila ng ilang mga botante ngunit naayos ding muli.

Kasalukuyang patuloy ang pagboto sa paaralan. Ayon sa mga mamamayang bumoboto dito, kulang ng mga taong gagabay sa kanila sa pagpila sa tamang presinto at maraming hindi mahanap ang kanilang pangalan sa listahan na nakapaskil sa paaralan.


Kuha ni Mary Edrielle Valiente

May iilang namimigay pa rin ng mga flyer na pangampanya sa labas ng Mayondon Elementary School ngayong araw ng eleksyon.

Ang pamimigay at pagsusuot ng campaign materials sa presinto ay ipinagbabawal ng Commission on Elections.