LOOK | Forgotten by time: Folk of San Joaquin in Calbayog put up with sloppy waterworks, but now change is coming

sloppy waterworks San Joaquin, Calbayog
Sloppy waterworks in San Joaquin, Calbayog City is due for overhaul. Photographed by Jesse Malabanan, News5 | InterAksyon

SAN JOAQUIN, Calbayog City – While households in the urban areas typically don’t have to worry about having free-flowing safe and potable water, residents in this fishing and farming village consider this a not-so-casual problem, and for five decades already.

Thousands of households in San Joaquin obtain their daily water supply from a natural spring situated near a mini dam upstream of Lulugayan Water Falls here.

“For five decades now, our habitants have had to contend with untreated surface water that is coursed through unsecured and unsafe network of pipelines connecting to each and every household,” said Barangay Kagawad Silverio “Biyut” Palima.

sloppy waterworks Calbayog City
Improvised, haphazard network of pipes conduct untreated water to residents in San Joaquin, Calbayog City. Photo: Jesse Malabanan, News5 | InterAksyon

What councilman Palima is saying is that the folk of San Joaquin has been neglected by the local government for this long a time concerning one of the most basic of human needs.

With the population of 6,188, corresponding to about 1,200 households, having to put up with poor sanitation due to lack of safe water and toilets day in and day out, Palima said it is no wonder children and adults alike have been frequenting the health centers and hospitals due to stomach-related illnesses, including diarrhea.

Pablo Labasbas, a first termer Barangay Chairman in this village, has had to double-time his actions to provide at least some of the basic village needs, including shelter, water and food and clothing from the proceeds of the meager Internal Revenue Allotment of P3.2 million.

San Joaquin Calbayog Bgy Capt Pablo Labasbas
Barangay Captain Pablo Labasbas: Change is coming. Photo: Jesse Malabanan, News5 | InterAksyon

Labasbas said he sought assistance from municipal legislators of Calbayog City to help him generate funds for the upgrading of the water system. He said P18-million from the Countryside Development Fund (CDF) of Samar first district Representative Edgar Mary Sarmiento had been released for such project.

“Feeder pipelines connecting from the mainline to households would be replaced soon, and consumption meters would be installed,” Labasbas reported, but one of the speed bumps is that many of the beneficiaries are indigents living below poverty line who can ill-afford the cost of the waterworks upgrade,” Labasbas explained.

Terry Mekitpikit, 43, of Purok 12, pointed out that, during heavy downpour, water that gushes from the pipeline is brown and murky, a clear indication that the water upstream is loaded with sediments and silt.

“You can’t even use it to take a bath, much less for washing clothes. The water system, if you can call it that, is next to useless. It’s been like this for the longest time” she added, shrugging helplessly at the thought that his village seems to have been forgotten by time.

“And they want to install meters for us to pay. Pay for sloppy waterworks?” she remarked, dropping side remarks the United Nations has ruled that access to water and sanitation is a Human Right.

Indeed, the UN Human Rights Council acknowledged that the right to sanitation is connected to the human right to water, since the lack of sanitation reduces the quality of water downstream, so subsequent discussions have continued emphasizing both rights together.

“The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.” UN stated in a published report.

For his part, Labasbas said the water system project will soon be enjoyed by the people of San Joaquin as the redevelopment work is in full swing and funds are already available.