Organic mineral aids Boracay in waste management

Amoy Buster

Karen Bermejo

A Filipino invention endorsed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is now being used in addressing the garbage and waste water problem in Boracay, a move aimed at sustaining this resort island’s environment amid continuous development.

Vigormin or Organo-Mineral (OM), a white organic powder developed by Dr. Merlinda Palencia of Adamson University, was first used in Boracay during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference last May. The research behind the mineral was funded by DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD).

Dr. Merlinda Palencia (right) explaining how Vigormin or Organo-Mineral powder works.

Dr. Merlinda Palencia (right) explaining how Vigormin or Organo-Mineral powder works.

It was initially developed for disaster stricken areas in the country, and was first used in temporary shelters in Palo, Leyte for typhoon Yolanda survivors to address sanitation problems. During the pilot implementation, three dedicated septic tanks, referred to as Eco-Sep tanks, were installed in the temporary shelters with 522 residents. The tanks were maintained with periodic application of the Vigormin. The Vigormin and the Eco-Sep tank constitutes the Eco-Sep (eco-friendly septic) System technology of the DOST.

After the successful demonstration of the project in Leyte for eight months, DOST opted to use the technology in Boracay, as one of the country’s top tourism destination which has long been a subject of environmental issues amid the influx of tourists.

According to Dr. Rowena Guevara, DOST Undersecretary for Scientific and Technological Services, the technology is a low-cost solution to Boracay’s problem on waste water, drainage systems, and residual solid waste that fill the air with noxious odor.

The Vigormin only costs P120 per kilogram, making it much cheaper compared to other chemical alternatives. A total of 12 tons of Vigormin was donated by the DOST for Boracay.

The pilot test conducted here in May was implemented through the cooperation of the DOST Regional Office 6, the Aklan Provincial Science and Technology Center and the Local Government Unit of Malay.

Vigormin was used for the treatment of septic and drainage water in several hotels which hosted APEC delegates, in Cagban and Caticlan jetty ports, in the water reservoir of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority and in some households. It was also used in material recovery facilities (MRFs) in Barangays Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak.

After the application of the Vigormin, it was able to effectively reduce unpleasant odor from decaying organic waste in the MRFs, as well as in concrete septic tanks of various establishments where it was applied. It resulted to the improvement of the septic water quality in Boracay, according to Guevara.

The Vigormin has not only been very helpful during APEC, but was used even after the international conference here. Until now, it is still used to treat truckloads of waste delivered in the garbage dumps in the island daily, and even in jetty ports. For its significant impact, the LGU of Malay said it will continue to apply the technology in the island, according to Guevara.

Guevara said the Eco-Sep project in Boracay is an example of the commercialization of development-driven technology.

“Boracay has the business of tourism. DOST has the technology of organomineral (Vigormin). We hope that by pushing for the utilization of developed technologies, we hope to translate them into revenues of income,” she said during the official launching of the Eco-Sep System last July 2 held at Eurotel Hotel.

Guevara also hoped that Boracay would set as an example of public-private partnership for technology-driven sustainability of the environment and development.

Meanwhile, Palencia said treating drainage water with Vigormin could help in the preservation of Boracay’s natural environment. Palencia assured that the Vigormin, made of locally sourced organic minerals, could not bring any harm to the beach waters of the island. She said that aside from reducing foul odor, the Vigormin also helps in the reduction of coliform and other harmful bacteria in the treated septic and drainage water, which are usually dislodged at the beach.

On his part, Malay Mayor John Yap encouraged the support of the private sector for the DOST project. “We are convinced with the positive result of this product. Let’s help Boracay by using this product,” Yap said.

Aside from the Vigormin, the DOST is also pushing for the use of the Eco- Sep tank designed by manufacturing firm INCA Philippines. The Eco-Sep tank that costs about P66,000 can accommodate about 2.5 cubic liters and can help reduce odor and heavy metals in wastewater. It can be used in hotels, resorts and even private households.

After Boracay, the project will also be endorsed in other areas in Western Visayas, according to Engr. Rowen Gelonga, DOST 6- Director. Gelonga said the Eco-Sep project will be helpful especially for areas where septic and waste management is a problem.

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