SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—Pointing out the need to reverse the degradation of Subic Bay, considered the No. 1 asset of this free port, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has called on various stakeholders in the area to help map out an action plan to save Subic Bay.
SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the Subic agency will host the first Subic Bay Water Summit here Jan. 28 and 29 to address concerns on the water quality of the bay that, experts said, “had been subjected to various strains brought about by rapid urbanization as well as development activities.”
Arreza said the 12,350-hectare Subic Bay, which forms part of the communal waters of Olongapo City and nearby areas in the provinces of Zambales and Bataan, plays a critical role in the development of the Subic Bay free port and nearby areas.
However, the bay is now considered a threatened resource, Arreza added, due to patches of pollution load caused by the disposal of partially treated sewage, nutrient inflows from changes in land use, and inadequate treatment of industrial wastes.
“Subic Bay is an all-important natural asset,” Arreza said. “But if these stresses continue, we are sure to be left with an unsustainable resource.”
“Since Subic Bay is a common resource, every stakeholder has the moral obligation to keep this critical resource sustainable. We hope the summit would address this very vital concern,” he added.
The SBMA official said that recent studies indicated that the degradation of the bay waters is caused by several “stressors” in nearby areas. These include reduction of forest cover, inefficient use of fertilizer and pesticides, burning of grasslands, proliferation of fish cages, and increasing sewage and pollution load from domestic waste produced by neighboring communities.
“Surprisingly, despite growing industrialization in the Subic Bay free port, the major culprit in the observed decline of water quality at this point is waste from domestic households in the surrounding local communities,” Arreza noted, citing studies made in 2006 for Subic’s Integrated Coastal Management Plan (ICMP).
The studies showed that pressures from commercial and industrial activities in nearby communities, as well as rapid urbanization and population growth, have increased solid-waste generation.
On top of these, limited sewer and wastewater treatment facilities, and lack of waste-disposal facilities, have created negative impact on the quality of Subic Bay.
According to SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya de la Llana-Koval, the water summit will serve as a venue for the SBMA and other stakeholders to define the current status and issues on the quality of the water environment in Subic Bay.
The summit is also expected to raise environmental awareness among stakeholders and community groups, and provide them with examples of current best practices in environment and water resource management.
The exercise will also help identify and prioritize key water issues and action plan for the greater Subic Bay area, and generate commitment among stakeholders toward sustainable use and management of land and water resources, Koval said.
For the two-day summit, the SBMA has invited people’s organizations in Olongapo, Zambales and Bataan; environment officials; heads of local government units; and representatives from Subic business locators, schools and various SBMA departments.
Koval said the event speakers include Sec. Edgardo Pamintuan, chairman of the Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council, who will talk on the impact of human settlements on water resources; Gov. Felipe Nava of Guimaras, who will present best practices in marine conservation; Marikina Mayor Marides Fernando, who will tackle sustainable city planning; World Wide Fund for the Environment vice president Joel Palma, who will make a presentation on marine conservation; and Cesar de la Cruz, president of the Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers, who will lecture on sustainable technologies and best practices in industries.
Also scheduled to discuss land- and water-use planning, and coastal management, respectively, are two members of the SBMA ICMP team, Dr. Hoanh Hoang Nguyen, a soil and water specialist, and Carlito Rufo, an environmental consultant.
Jaime Garcia, assistant general manager of Subic Water and Sewerage Co., which operates the water system in this free port, will expound on the firm’s sewerage master plan.
Koval said that Sen. Richard Gordon, the first SBMA chairman and administrator, has also been invited to deliver his message to participants of the two-day summit.
--Written by Henry Empeño / Correspondent