I was in Iloilo last week when I stumbled into a story that had dangerous overtones. This was when Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas declared that water refilling stations without sanitary permits would be closed.
“They have to comply with the requirement. If they fail or refuse to secure sanitary permits we will close them,” was how Treñas conveyed his position.
Later, however, I learned that engineer Josemarie Fayo, hospital environment occupational health inspector of the Department of Health, warned local government units to issue business permits to water stations only after they have secured operational permits from the health department.
But the most disturbing thing that came out was his revelation that of the 504 water refilling stations in Western Visayas, only 154 have been accredited by the DOH. In short, 70 percent are operating sans the necessary health inspection.
DOH records show that of the 113 registered water refilling stations in Iloilo City, only 23 have secured the necessary DOH sanitary permits.
The problem reached an alarming level because of the forthcoming Dinagyang Festival where thousand of visitors will converge in Iloilo City.
City health officer Urminico Baronda pointed out that drinking bottled water does not guarantee safety. He added that most of these lack safety seals.
In addition to the warning by City Mayor Treñas, tourism officer Benito Jimena said, “We should not wait for things to happen before agencies concerned look into the matter of water refilling stations peddling ‘unsafe’ bottled water.”
He also expressed apprehension on the possible effect on tourism if a single incident occurs that may leave the impression that in this part of the country drinking water is unsafe.
Fayo, on the other hand, stressed the importance of local governments ensuring that water refilling stations submit a monthly water analysis to ensure the safety of their products.
But the more important finding by Fayo is that on-site tests showed that some refilling stations use “improvised filtering machines.” He added that several have “damaged, broken or rusty devices.”
Bacolod, too, has it share of the problem. Of the city’s 104 registered water refilling stations, only 34 are operating with sanitary permits. It’s worse in Aklan where only four of 28 water refilling stations have complied with the DOH requirement.
The situation in Capiz is better. Of the 54 registered stations, 36 have sanitary permits. Guimaras, on the other hand, have five registered water refilling stations but only two are equipped with the necessary sanitary permits.
Iloilo province has cashed in on the bonanza. But the problem is that only 34 have been DOH-accredited out of 103 registered refilling stations.
In Negros Occidental, there are 17 water refilling stations equipped with the necessary permits out of the 88 registered to operate.
The problem seems to be that while DOH officials have aired warnings about the need for health certification before business permits are issued to water refilling stations, how come so many are operating?
Just don’t toss the health issue to the local government units. DOH personnel and officials must also first enforce the law. And the local officials should be properly informed which are the water refilling stations that have complied with the necessary DOH clearance.
The danger is that sooner or later some of these bottled water products could provoke an epidemic that could bring down so many since the bulk of urban dwellers apparently have taken to them, assured that they are safe drinking water.
So, what does Health Secretary Francisco Duque III have to say about this situation and the danger these water refilling stations pose?
Battle over STL
In Bacolod City, the Church has launched a vigorous campaign against small town lottery by undertaking a 50-car caravan Monday to denounce the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s resolution endorsing to the PCSO the one-year experiment.
But in Aklan province, the League of Municipal Mayors and the provincial board are locked in a heated debate over the STL issue. The league is endorsing the one-year test, while the provincial board is almost unanimously opposed to it.
But even as they are locked in a struggle over the STL, the cases of rape in Negros Occidental went up drastically over the weekend. I’ll write about this in the next column. There’s something really wrong going on.–Rolly Espina, Philippine Star