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GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Cotabato City officials were startled to find out the cause of their recurring problem on frequent flooding, particularly in the downtown area.
“It’s sebo (grease and fats) obstructing our drainage system,” said Mayor Mohammad “Bruce” Matabalao, referring to what a team of sanitation and environment personnel found inside drainage culverts, along with trash and other debris.
The city’s frequent flooding has been attributed to a clogged drainage system, worsened by the proliferation of water hyacinth blocking the flow of the Rio Grande de Mindanao and its tributaries.
With four rivers and several creeks crisscrossing Cotabato, flooding has been a recurring problem in the city of nearly 350,000 people, especially during rainy days.
“A brief downpour usually triggers flooding in our area,” said Teresita Giguiento, a retired government employee, during an interview with Rappler on Thursday, May 11.
“We didn’t have this problem when I was still a student,” said Giguiento, who has to navigate an elevated plank to avoid floodwaters when entering or leaving her house.
Matabalao said inspectors traced the grease and fats to restaurants and eateries, suggesting a violation of waste disposal and sanitation rules set by the local government.
Food establishments in the city are required to have their own grease traps, wastewater treatment, and septic tanks.
The discovery prompted Matabalao to order a thorough inspection of all business establishments in the city, reminding them of the city’s sanitation code.
Repeated violations could result in penalties and closure of the offending establishment, he said.
The city government has started the massive clean-up in downtown Cotabato, but the problem has persisted. Officials said it could take time to rid the drainage system of all that grease.
Grease and fat in drains pose a filthy problem and can cause significant trouble in the drainage system, explained the city’s sanitation office. Obstructions can lead to drain backups, particularly during heavy rainfall.
Officials said that when fat and grease mix with water, they solidify. The solidified fat becomes tough and can harden like mortar when combined with sludge and debris.
Matabalao said at least three establishments were initially fined for violating the sanitation code.
“If they continue in violating this, which is a serious offense in our city, we will be forced to shut them down,” he said.
The inspection will continue with other establishments, he said. – Rappler.com