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[First published in Edge Davao,]


“Equip yourselves with more knowledge… (and) strengthen your belief that science and technology would make a huge difference to improve the lives of every Filipino.”

That was Secretary Mario G. Montejo of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) urging the students who hold a scholarship from the department during a conference held in Pasay City recently.

According to Montejo, science and technology remain the important engine of the country. Science and technology drive industry competitiveness, accelerate the delivery of government services, and enhance the country’s capacity in emerging technologies, he said.

“With the developing challenges of globalization and tough competition in the marketplace, science and technology innovation and research should be a priority to ensure our nation’s global competitiveness,” Montejo stressed.

I can say that it is very true, indeed. In fact, it is technology funded by the science department that helps deodorize the wastewater of Boracay. But that’s going ahead of the story.

Boracay is a small island two kilometers off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas region. Its fine white sand beaches have received awards from numerous travel publications and agencies. In 2012, the international travel magazine Travel + Leisure named it as “the best island in the world.”

Apart from its white sand beaches, Boracay is also famous for being one of the world’s top destinations for relaxation. It is also emerging among the top destinations for tranquility and nightlife. It’s no wonder why some of the country’s top celebrities -- from stars to politicians, and even businessmen -- troop to the island during holidays.

But like most islands in the country which have become tourist destinations, Boracay Island is not spared from several problems. In fact, it has long been the subject of issues regarding wastewater, drainage systems, and residual solid waste that fill the air with noxious odor.

“While there are regulations governing waste treatment in the island, the problem persists due to an inadequate treatment system especially with the continuous influx of tourists to the island,” a press release from the DOST said.

Boracay, the press statement said, may have found the solution to the island’s problem through Eco-Sep, an organomineral treatment used in a self-sustaining and portable wastewater treatment system.

Organominerals, according to my source, are minerals that are affected by organics, mostly life-related, but not directly produced by living cells. In other words, they are mineral products that are formed by interaction of organic matter.

“The Eco-Sep is a low-cost and deployable method for immediate installation of domestic wastewater clean-up anywhere in the country,” the DOST explained. “Being enhanced with organominerals makes the Eco-Sep appropriate in disaster-stricken areas.”

Another good thing about Eco-Sep: “Among others, it may be used in condominiums, housing projects, hotels and areas where wastewater treatment is a problem.”
It was Dr. Merlinda Palencia of Adamson University who developed Eco-Sep. Her research was funded by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), a DOST line agency.

Tacloban, following the disastrous effects of Typhoons Yolanda and Ruby, was chosen as the initial demonstration area for the Eco-Sep. Three Eco-Sep systems were installed for 522 residents in temporary shelters in Palo, Leyte with 61 latrines and 30 bathing cubicles.

The demonstration showed positive results. This prompted Mayor Remedios Petilla of Palo, Leyte to recommend that the Eco-Sep must be incorporated in the engineering design for the rehabilitation projects in Leyte.
Inspired by these results, some DOST officials thought that the Eco-Sep technology might be able to help Boracay solve its wastewater problem.

So, a team from DOST (Dr. Palencia who served as the project leader and Ninaliza Escorial, Laarni Piloton, and Candy Ilaw, all staff from PCIEERD) worked with the municipal environment office and the local government of Boracay. They applied the organomineral treatment in selected materials recovery facilities (MRF) and some hotels within the beach area.

For the past two weeks, the team checked on the number and volume of septic tanks in the selected hotels for the computation of the dosage for the treatment. The team has also collected samples of raw wastewater.

In two facilities in barangay Balabag (where seven trucks of residual waste are generated) and barangay Manoc-Manoc, the team sprayed organominerals to reduce odor from the heavy loads of garbage in the areas. “Spraying was concentrated in biodegradable and some residuals that produce bad odor,” said DOST in a press dispatch.

And the result: “The use of the Eco-Sep system with organominerals in Boracay showed significant reduction of odor both in the selected hotels and especially in the MRFs where results were almost experienced instantly.”

It has been reported that one hotel which agreed for the study spend about P20,000.00 on commercially available chemical spray for the odor. “Now, it found the organomineral technology as a cheaper substitute,” the DOST dispatch said.

In the jar test conducted by Dr. Palencia in a pumping station in Boracay, the caretaker reported that after organomineral application, the wastewater isolated for the jar test changed color and eliminated the bad odor.

“With the positive results shown in the jar test, the organomineral treatment was finally used on-site, resulting in a cleaner wastewater compared with raw wastewater,” the dispatch said.
I think it’s also viable for those hotels, restaurants, housing projects, and condominiums in Davao City and resorts located in Island Garden City of Samal to apply the Eco-Sep technology.