BAGUIO CITY — Baguio City Benjamin Magalong made a public apology regarding his statement that irrigation for the strawberries in La Trinidad came from the polluted Balili River.

The mayor explained that he intended to emphasized that Baguio City is “guilty of polluting Balili River” and should address the matter.

“[B]ut in my desire to drive home that point, I came up with uncalled for a statement that I should not have said at all. I was wrong, and I apologize,” he said.

Magalong made the statement during the January 10 consultation with the chiefs of Departments of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, and the Interior and Local Government regarding the rehabilitation plan for the Summer Capital.

During the meeting, the mayor discussed the urgent need to rehabilitate the sewerage system to address the pollution of the Balili River. It was during this part that he mentioned the impact of the river on the strawberry production of La Trinidad.

The river traces its headwater in Baguio City. Its water then flows to La Trinidad and the municipalities of Sablan and Tublay, spanning about 23.8 kilometers. In the 70s, Balili was under the Class A river classification of the DENR. The designation means water from the river was fit for human consumption using a minimal treatment. It also served as irrigation, fish source, and recreation area.

Expansion for human settlements, commercial spaces, and a weak waste management system ruined the river system through the years. The DENR said during a June 2019 briefing that Balili contains 1.6 trillion most probable number per 100 milliliters (mpn/100ml) fecal coliform level. The figure is far higher than Manila Bay’s 35 million mpn/100ml. At present, there are parts of the river system considered biologically dead.

Earlier, the mayor sent a text message to La Trinidad Mayor Romeo Salda to apologize for his insensitive pronouncement.

“Good afternoon Manong Romy. My apologies if you felt slighted with my pronouncement regarding Balili River and strawberry farm. I believe it was uncalled for. I will make amends,” the text said.

Salda accepted the apology and corrected the erroneous claim of Magalong before the media. He explained that irrigation for the strawberry farms comes “from the creek from Pico and Puguis but none from Balili River.”

Meanwhile, La Trinidad Tourism Officer Valred Olsim urged officials of the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) to be cautious in issuing statements to avoid putting neighbors in a bad light. He also reminded them that BLISTT governments should work together and help promote the development of their neighbors. # nordis.net

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