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Sewer Systems of the Philippines

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  • By: Franklin H. Maletsky
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Marilao River Water Pollution in -Philippines.jpg
Polluted River of Marilao, Bulacan, Philippines
The people and the government do not CARE. No pride in their heritage.
Marilao River Water Pollution.jpg
Polluted River of Marilao, Bulacan, Philippines.

This river runs deep but I bet you a chicken can walk across this river without sinking!

The Marilao in Bulacan is among four iconic rivers whose polluted conditions are spotlighted in ‘Hidden Consequences’, a new report published today by Greenpeace. The report calls for urgent action to protect the livelihoods of the people and wildlife that depend on these waterways and the life-sustaining resources that they provide, by demanding that policy-makers commit to a Toxic-Free Future.
Truckee river reno nevada.JPG
Truckee River running through downtown Reno, Nevada. Pristine, Crystal Clear and unpolluted. It really depends on the people. Here the citizens and the government care. They are proud of their river.
This is a new sewer drainage system in Villa, Iloilo City It drains directly into the Batiano River. From a public health perspective, this is progress. It gets septage and storm water out of neighborhoods and into the river.jpg
Drainage system of Villa Anita, Iloilo City, Philippines
It dumps into the river and pollutes it.

The canals, creeks, rivers and seas are still used as the main sewer systems of the Philippines.


The River #1 Sewer System

Protect & Save the Rivers. Do not let your sewer drain into the river. Your community can be the first to initiate this project.
Build your riverbank protection with a built-in gutter system. Reforest within Ten Years - Guaranteed!

As of the year 2013, the Philippine rivers continue to be the #1 sewer system in the Philippines.

The government from the barangay level to the Regional level has embarked on several yearly projects to clean the river. These projects in most instances have served more as political campaign and ego enhancement for government officials to boost their careers.

There is one fact that everybody knows from young children to old men and women; Nature cleans itself. Yes it does. In the case of the Philippines, mother natures tries very hard. We all know that every year during the rainy season the floods cleanses the river systems of the Philippines. This is a yearly purge that Mother nature does. But it does not stay clean for long.

The political leaders and top-notch government officials, usually right before the rainy season comes along (last week of April), will go on a campaign to clean the rivers. Plenty of volunteers, clubs, associations will be involved. There will be lots of picture taking and publication. They will do some work knowing full well that Mother Nature will be right behind to clean-up the rest. The rainy season in the Philippines starts in May.

This effort by the government to clean the the rivers in a way is "good". But it is also bad because it only shows the people that it is OK to pollute, because we, the government will be there to clean up after you. More effort should be put into the campaign for education and enforcement of the law.

The efforts of these leaders are good and all mean well, but they do not solve the problem. Because right after the clean-up efforts the people (including some of those who volunteered) go back to their old bad habits of throwing their garbage in the river and flushing their sewers into the gutters that empty into the Rivers. This continues on and on and on. Then the following year the government officials campaign again to clean the rivers and the cycle repeats itself.

When will they ever learn.

The Lakes - What a great place to drain the sewage into

People love to build their homes around the lake. They love the beauty of the lake. The fishing is great. The lake provides a livelihood.

But again in the Philippines the people and the government fail to recognize the fact that every house around the lake must have a sewer system that does not discharge into the lake.

Houses are built with septic tanks just a few feet from the lake and these septic tanks do not have leach lines and therefore they leach right into the lake.

Houses are built with a sewage system that drains right into the lake and they call these homes "vacation homes".

Most of the lakes in the Philippines are dying and it is no longer safe or healthy to swim in.

The Sea - The best dumping area for all the sewer systems in the Philippines

The barangays, municipalities, Cities, and Provinces, adjacent to the sea use the sea as their sewer dump. Most of the cities and municipalites in the Philippines that have access to the sea discharge their sewer system into the sea. The government leaders know that this practice will ruin the environment yet they continue to do it.

Underground Water - Pollution of the Supply of Potable water

Most coastal areas in the Philippines whose rivers are too polluted to use as source of drinking water, rely on the underground water. In these coastal areas, the water table is usually within 100 feet.

The government wells have filtration systems, however most wells belonging to private citizens do not have these costly filtration system. The danger lies within the crowded housing areas where citizens supplement their water supply with well water. These wells are just a few feet from the septic tanks.

Within a subdivision with no public sewer/septic system, the underground water is very polluted and full of bacteria and toxic chemicals that leach out from the septic tanks and into the underground water system. As of 2010, these types of subdivisions are popping up like mushrooms throughout the Philippines. The Philippine government continues to issue out the building permits knowing full well that the drainage system is not addressed.

This underground water pollution goes unattended and un-checked. Because, what is out of sight is out of mind.

Sewer or Water Filtration System

Most developed countries spend millions of dollars in their sewer filtration systems. The Philippine Government is fully aware of what is going on. They create the laws to "protect" the environment. The implementation of these laws in now a different story.

  • Here are some of the laws for you to look at:
    • REPUBLIC ACT No. 1383
    • REPUBLIC ACT No. 3597
    • Republic Act No. 9275

Solution to the Sewer System and Salvation of the Water Systems of the Philippines

There is a law in the Philippines that protect the river banks
DENR Administrative Order No. 97-05: In the interest of the service and in order to promote ecological balance and protection of the environment, the provisions of R.A. No. 1273, P.D. No. 705 (as amended ) and P.D. No. 1067 shall be strictly implemented.

  • The Solution to the problem:
  1. Follow government Building Codes:
    • Apartments, condominiums, commercial buildings, subdivisions must have a septic system with leach lines. If leach lines are not possible then the septic must be drained to a common area for processing. The lines must never be drained into the sewer system of the city, unless the city has a sewer rehabilitation pond already in operation.
    • The contractors or developers must come up with a plan that addresses the problem of sewer and septic before the city/municipality can grant him/her the permit.
    • If the development is in an area where the city/municipality does not have a sewer system in line, the developers must come up with a plan that will include the creation of a receiving pond to treat the sewer and septic drainage.
  2. Install Gutter or drainage system for rivers: Most rivers in urban areas already have their river banks cemented (riprap) to protect the buildings that are built next to it. Most of these buildings if not all have their sewer systems drain right into the river. This is already an accepted practice in the Philippines. But there is a cure for this.
    1. Install culverts within the "riprap" of the riverbanks or beside it. The culverts will be the main gutter system of the community. The community's sewer will flow into this gutter system which will empty out down river into a designated pond for treatment and then later released back to the sea or used for irrigation.
    2. Install an open gutter alongside the "riprap". The sewer of the community will be drained into this open gutter alongside the riprap and since it follows the flowing level of the river the sewage will flow very easily.
    Actually this open gutter system will work much better since it will be easier to maintain and cost less to build.
  • The picture below is just an example:


  1. For those with engineering ingenuity or engineering, architectural or construction background; you can design this gutter system that goes side by side with the riprap and send it to I will then forward your designs to the Secretary of the DENR with a cover letter.
  2. For those who do not have the urge to write. Please talk to your community leaders. Plant this idea of the "gutter system inclusive with the riverbank protection system" in the heads of your community leaders. Once the idea gets around, it will be just a matter of time before someone will take the idea and have it materialized.
  3. Many communities in the Philippines already have a built in gutter system and most of them drain into the nearby river, lake or sea. For those that drain their gutters into the rivers, option #2 will be a quick solution.
  4. The task to build this new system will start from the main river source and build it slowly down river. In order for this system to start, the barangay leaders must meet and approve this project at the barangay level. The approval must be first, then the funding will come. The barangay must pass a resolution to have such a project. The money may not come immediately from the top level authorities but it will in the future. The money will never come if the project initiative is not approved first at the barangay level.
  5. For those barangays whose rivers are already too polluted, it is not too late. Actually it is never too late. For those barangays whose rivers are still pristine and clean, keep it that way. If your leaders do not take the precaution to protect your rivers, it will be just a matter of time when your rivers will also be polluted.
  6. Start this campaign with the youth. Contact your Barangay Chairman. From there your Chairman can contact the Federation President. This way your municipality/city will be aware of your endeavor. Then all the barangays in the municipality/city can follow your quest.
    To whoever is reading this, approach your barangay leaders and talk to them about this project. The "naysayers" will always tell you that the City or Municipality must first look into this situation. Do not depend on the city/municipality planners to act for your barangay's behalf. The initiative must first come from the barangay level. You must create the NEED. Once the NEED is there, the big-wigs government officials will start to listen, then funding will come.
  7. You can write a letter to DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje with a copy to the local DENR director in your region or province. You can request that all funding for the construction of riverbank protection or "riprap" be inclusive with the gutter system to drain the sewer of the community. This gutter system will stop the sewer of the community from flowing into river. If the DENR funds for this riverbank constructions with the "condition" that the gutter system be inclusive, the resurrection of our dead rivers is coming and it will also guarantee the cleanliness of the rivers that are still unpolluted.
    Write a letter to Secretary of the DENR and recommend the above solutions.
    • Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje
    • Department of Environment and Natural Resources
    • Visayas Avenue, Diliman, 1100 Quezon City, Philippines
    • +63-2-929-6626

Here are two examples as why you should write: No mention of a sewer system in any of the funding.

  1. CEBU CITY, March 15, 2012 (PIA) --- More than P140-M funds were allocated to nine local government units (LGUs) in Central Visayas under the Integrated Coastal Resources Management Project (ICRMP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).>>Read On
  2. Lanao del Sur, April 05, 2012 (PIA) --- The governor of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has called on his constituents to cooperate and support the region's efforts in protecting the environment. As government's support to the ARMM, the National Economic Development Authority Board has approved the P7-billion Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management project of the DENR, which includes the rehabilitation and greening of the Lake Lanao watershed.>>Read On

If you have any comments or suggestions please contact the founder of
Franklin H. Maletsky and his email is:

The Solution is so simple: Yet the DENR continues to ignore it

Rehabilitate the Pasig River and the Laguna de Bay lake

There are so many articles written about the rehabilitation of the Pasig River. Many attempts are made to clean the pasig river. The Philippine government talks the talk but can't walk the walk even with the help from international funds to clean the river.

Believe it or not the Philippine government created a "commission" called the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC). This commission was created in 1999 by virtue of Executive Order No. 54, as amended by executive Order No. 65. Fourteen (14) years later not much has been done. The organization does not have a whole lot of success stories to showcase the things that they have accomplished.

Here is a "success" story that the PRRC has in their website. This is great and hopefully there will be more, but they did not address the sewer system problem. The sewer continues to drain into the pasig river and continues to kill it.

The pasig river continues to get more and more polluted as the population of the communities nearby increases.

The pollution of the pasig river starts at the source. The source of the pasig river is Laguna de Bay, the biggest lake in the island of Luzon. Laguna de Bay is also the most polluted lake in Luzon.

Let us remember one thing and always bear this in mind: "We pollute". People generate pollution. If we start with that concept we are going to find the solution. In our current society, the people are completely dependent on the structure of the government. Just take these two instances: garbage and sewer. If the government does not provide the weekly garbage pick up and proper drainage of sewer, where in the world will the poor living along the pasig river drain their sewer and throw their garbage? This river is 27 kilometers long and every bit of it on either side of the river is populated.

I suggested the river gutter system to many denr officials and also to the PRRC back in 2012 but to this date there has been no reply from them.

As of 2016 the Pasig river continues to be the #1 sewer system of the Philippines.

Participate in this Facebook discussion regarding the rehabilitation of the Pasig river.

Some of the longest rivers in the Philippines

  1. Cagayan River (also Rio Grande Cagayan)
    Location : Cagayan Valley
    Length : 505 km
  2. Rio Grande de Mindanao (also Mindanao River)
    Location : Southern Mindanao
    Length : 373 km
  3. Agusan River
    Location : Eastern Mindanao
    Length : 350 km
  4. Pulangi River
    Location : Bukidnon
    Length : 320 km
  5. Pampanga River
    Location : Central Luzon
    Length : 260 km
  6. Agno River
    Location : Pangasinan
    Length : 206 km
  7. Abra River
    Location : Benguet
    Length : 178 km
  8. Abulog River
    Location : Kalinga
    Length : 175 km
  9. Chico River
    Location : Kalinga
    Length : 174.67 km
  10. Davao River
    Location : Mindanao, Davao
    Length : 160 km

Photos of River Cleanups