File photo of the P240-million all-in-one sewage treatment plant (STP) shared by the Puerto Princesa City Water Reclamation Learning Center, Inc. (PPCWRLCI) on its FB account/page. The facility's official commissioning was on March 4, 2022, in celebration of the city's 150th founding anniversary and 18th Balayong Festival.

A P240-million all-in-one sewage treatment plant (STP) was inaugurated at the Puerto Princesa City Baywalk area on Friday, which is anticipated to reduce marine pollution from industrial and domestic waste while simultaneously treating it for reuse.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron, who led the commissioning of the STP in honor of Puerto Princesa’s 150th anniversary and the 18th Balayong Festival, said it would be able to treat and reuse wastewater from septic tanks for beneficial purposes like firefighting, watering plants, and other non-potable uses.

The private operators of the facility on Friday said it is designed to manage a total flow of 2,000 cubic meters of sewage and 70 cubic meters of septage waste per day.

Puerto Princesa mayor Lucilo Bayron while delivering his speech at the commissioning of the sewage treatment facility on March 4, 2022, at the city baywalk. (Screenshot from the live stream of the City Mayor’s Office-Puerto Princesa)

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The Puerto Princesa innovative economical Septage and Sewage Treatment Plant (PPieSSTP) is a public-private partnership (PPP) by the city government and Faith Lived Out Visions 2 Ventures Holdings Inc. (FLOWs), a joint venture of JCA 1221 Holdings, Inc. and Vivant Hydrocore Holdings, Inc., in cooperation with the Puerto Princesa City Water District (PPCWD), with an investment of P215 million.

Mayor Bayron said that the city contributed P25 million to the facility’s completion in order to reduce pollution in the bay as Puerto Princesa’s population grows.

Three major drainage pipes from densely populated parts of the city’s central business district are covered by this project.

He said since nine outfalls discharge into the bay, plans for additional STPs are being considered.

A personnel of the PPCWRLCI working to store non-potable recycled water into a plastic drum. (PPCWRLCI file photo)

“Yong dating mga tubig galing sa septic tank na pumupunta sa kanal, iipunin dito, tapos ite-treat — yon ang septage plan. Yong sewerage naman, yong ordinaryong tubig na galing sa banyo, iniipon din, ite-treat din bago bibitawan sa bay. Ma-sa-save yong bay natin,” he said.

“Galing ng Manggahan hanggang dito sa may Rizal Avenue, lagpas niyan, tatlo yan na [may] natural na takbuhan ng tubig. Hinarang yan at pinapapunta dito [yong wastewater],” he added, claiming there is a section of San Miguel where wastewater is collected as well for treatment.

The plant’s operators stated in an information sheet that it is typhoon-resilient and has, in fact, distributed recycled water to ease supply deficiencies during Odette’s onslaught on December 17, 2021. It has also cleaned water the size of 100 Olympic-size swimming pools since it opened on November 27, 2021.

“Ngayon ay meron na tayo nito, hindi na tayo [magkakaroon] ng problema sa septage,” said Bayron, as he appeals to residents to immediately report if their septic tanks are already full.

“Ang maitutulong nila, kapag puno ang septic tanks nila i-report kaagad nila kasi ito mag-o-operate sila ng [septic tank siphoning] na naka-schedule,” he told the local media shortly before the formal event.

The facility, which uses anaerobic bacteria to remove nitrates and aeration to treat wastewater and does not use chemicals, has an expandable capacity, uses solar energy, and will soon feature a learning center for research on wastewater treatment, a people empowering center, and an aquarium to attract tourists as well.

JCA 1221 Holdings, Inc. president Atty. Jehremiah Asis said during the commissioning event that the STP will not only protect the city bay, but also the “next generation”.

“Pinapangalagaan niya ang kalikasan as an inheritance for future generations. And when I say inheritance, my children are here, allow me to be personal for a moment — my kids, this is your inheritance. This plant is your inheritance,” he said.

Water and sanitation services
According to Puerto Princesa City Water Reclamation Learning Center, Inc. (PPCWRLCI) chairman Jess Garcia, the utility-scale STP for the city intends to promote environmental protection, preservation, and sustainability using state-of-the-art technology.

“This is a structure where you have, effectively, the best of both worlds. You have the private sector that brings in the capital, the investment, and the technical expertise in partnership with the public sector,” he said.

The water reclamation and learning center, which the city government formed with FLOWs, will run the sanitation services part of the wastewater treatment plant. This is in line with the “Philippine Clean Water Act” and City Ordinance No. 737.

On the other hand, PPCWD board chairman Winston Gonzales said the water district is proud to be a part of the STP project.

“This project represents the true realization of a PPP venture,” he said, adding that while it isn’t the first of its kind in Palawan, because the STP El Nido is already in place, it is less expensive at P240 million versus about P700 million.

PPCWD general manager Walter Laurel recounted in his message that in 2014, he was one of the water district’s personnel who was sent to the United States to research the feasibility of constructing a wastewater treatment facility in the city.

“The first concept was, the water district will borrow money and construct this kind of facility. Good thing, nagkaroon kami ng meeting ni mayor Bayron and he told us na the city government will implement this project. Two things ang naging kagandahan noon — una, hindi namin kailangang mangutang — we can focus on water supply,” he said, citing there are still barangays in the city that are not connected to the water system.

Of the 66 barangays, he said at the event that only 47 are connected to the water grid.

Research area for students
A highlighted garden with plants sustained by reclaimed water sits above the STP’s collection well. Shem Garcia, head of the Cebu-based Vivant Foundation, believes it underlines the importance of corporate social responsibility to them.

The STP, according to him, could be a designated location where students can study and obtain engaging and interesting experiences that will allow them to practice, enrich, reteach, and increase their learning. Initial talks for possible STEM and technical-vocation course integration have already been conducted with the city and provincial offices of the Department of Education (DepEd).

“It’s our way of letting the community know that we are also a part of the community, and we want to invest not just in the industry to improve everyday living, such as power and water, but also in other areas, particularly in education,” he said.

He cited that they have provided power to six schools using solar technology through EU funding, but their first project in Puerto Princesa was a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) laboratory at Palawan National School (PNS).

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.