29 January 2010

SBMA bats for conservation of Subic Bay

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said on Wednesday that a concrete action plan is needed to prevent further degradation of the waters of Subic Bay, a resource which is crucial to the economic life of this free port and the neighboring communities.

SBMA officials stressed this on Wednesday as the agency prepared for the first Subic Bay Water Summit, a two-day event that would seek to address various concerns on the sustainability of Subic Bay, considered as this free port’s number one asset.

“We call on all the stakeholders in and around the Subic Bay Freeport to join us in mapping out a plan to save Subic Bay,” said SBMA chairman Feliciano Salonga who will open the summit today at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center.

“We need the help and cooperation of everyone, as this is one issue that impacts on practically everyone in the area,” he said.

“Let’s join hands in addressing this concern. Let’s formulate concrete measures to conserve the bay, and see to it that the action plan is successfully carried out,” Salonga added.

Experts who conducted studies of the bay said earlier that the 12,350-hectare Subic Bay is threatened by various strains brought about by rapid urbanization, as well as development activities.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said that the bay may cease to serve as the economic lifeblood of the Subic Bay Freeport if the stresses affecting the water quality in the bay are left unchecked.

“If the degradation continues, we would lose our beautiful beaches, fishermen would have less fish catch, the bay would become murky and silted, and ultimately the Subic Bay Freeport would become less attractive to investors and tourists,” Arreza warned.

SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya Dela Llana-Koval said that Subic Bay now suffers from increasing pollution load brought about by the disposal of partially-treated sewage, nutrient inflows from changes in land use, and inadequate treatment of industrial wastes.

Most of the discharges are wastes coming from domestic households in the nearby communities, Koval also said, quoting results of previous studies.

The factors stressing the bay 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 wastes produced by communities around the bay.

The same studies also showed that pressures from commercial and industrial activities in nearby communities, as well as rapid urbanization of surrounding communities have also increased solid waste generation.

Limited sewer and wastewater treatment facilities, and lack of waste disposal facilities in some communities worsen the situation, Koval added.

Arreza said it is now the moral duty of every resident in the Subic Bay area to help save this vital body of water to keep it a sustainable resource that would extend benefits to future generations.

He said 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, as well as the different SBMA departments.

Speakers in the two-day water summit include Sec. Edgardo Pamintuan, chairman of the Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council, who will discuss the impact of human settlements on water resources; Gov. Felipe Nava of Guimaras, on best practices in marine conservation; Marikina Mayor Marides Fernando, on sustainable city planning; World Wide Fund for the Environment vice president Joel Palma, on marine conservation; and Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers president Cesar dela Cruz, on sustainable technologies and best practices in industries.

Two environmental experts who helped produce the Integrated Coastal Management Program for Subic Bay, Dr. Hoanh Hoang Nguyen and Engr. Carlito Rufo, will also present their studies on land and water use planning, and coastal management, respectively.

Engr. Jaime Garcia, assistant general manager of Subic Water and Sewerage Co., will also discuss the firm’s sewerage master plan.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who served as the first SBMA chairman and administrator, has also been invited to deliver his message to participants of the two-day summit.

Arreza said that as manager of the free port, the SBMA will exhaust all foreseeable measures to save the bay, but it would need the cooperation of all stakeholders in the Subic Bay area.

“Everyone’s future is at stake here,” Arreza stressed. “It’s not just a matter of attracting tourists or investors for the SBMA; we’re talking here about the economic survival of the Subic Bay area and everyone in it.” (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: A sailboat glides along Subic Bay, which is considered the economic lifeblood of the Subic Bay Freeport and nearby communities in Olongapo City, Zambales and Bataan. The SBMA, which manages the free port, is now enjoining stakeholders to help conserve the natural resource.