Siargao, as the next big tourist destination in Surigao del Norte, is presently gaining momentum as more exposure in mainstream entertainment is given to it. The Metro Manila Film Festival even has a movie aptly titled ‘Siargao.’ Starring Jericho Rosales, Erich Gonzales and Jasmine Curtis-Smith, the love story has attracted more viewers thanks to the picturesque locations the movie highlights. However, as more tourists are anticipated to visit the island, the risk of it being destroyed because of anthropogenic reasons is feared.
One of the main reasons Siargao continues to attract tourists is the fact that is has beautiful beaches comparable to top beach destinations in the world. However, its waters are also in danger of exploitation. Thus, the island’s waters can become unsafe.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) came up with a technology that aims to keep the waters of Siargao safe. Launched in September 2017, the Eco-Friendly Septic Tank System or more popularly known as Eco-Sep was introduced to the island. It consists of “a septic water management system that addresses the problem on untreated wastewater in resorts, public establishments, and households.”
Presently, three pilot sites including General Luna Market, General Luna High School, and Traveler’s Beach Resort are being tested. According to Engr. Noel Ajoc, Eco-Sep project coordinator, “samples collected from these sites will serve as a baseline for DOST to encourage resort owners, LGUs, and households to adopt the technology in our campaign [as part of the project].”
Dr. Merlinda Palencia, the developer of the technology, explains that the “Eco-sep system deployed in the pilot sites contains Vigormin, an organomineral that hastens the decomposition of harmful bacteria that lodge in septic tanks. Vigormin prevents bacteria from escaping from the tank, thus avoiding contamination of waste water in sewage systems.”
She further notes that the technology will greatly benefit Siargao. She stresses that “most septic tanks in the island have a bottomless design which allows wastewater to quickly seep through the ground. This poses higher risk of contamination in freshwater and seawater.”
Since Siargao’s eco-tourism ultimately relies on its pristine and clean waters along its beaches, Dr. Palencia states that “we don’t want Siargao to follow the footsteps of other tourist areas where fecal bacteria are already in seawaters.”
To support this initiative, DOST Caraga Regional Director Dominga Mallonga reinforces that DOST “will always continue its support in sustaining eco-tourism in the island.”
“With the development comes challenges from the increasing influx of tourists in Siargao. DOST will always be along the way so that we will be able to plan out carefully and avoid problems in solid waste management and food safety,” promised Director Mallonga.
The Eco-Sep technology is funded by the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD). Its launch in Siargao was joined by scientists, local government units (LGUs), government agencies, educators, volunteer groups, and students.
The archipelagic characteristic of the Philippines ensures that the country will benefit from island tourism. However, it requires a lot of effort, responsibility and government intervention so that its waters will be safe for the consumption of the people.
Author’s Note: Certain sections of this article are from the Eco-Sep Press Release from the Public Affairs Unit – Communication Resources and Production Division of the Department of Science and Technology.