Negros Oriental officials, led by Governor Roel Degamo, yesterday signed a Declaration of Commitment in Dumaguete City to achieve a Zero Open Defecation to improve the health and living conditions of residents of the province.
The signing was held during the First Provincial Sanitation Summit, in cooperation with the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank. It was noted during the summit that, of the 271,185 households in Negros Oriental, only 76 percent have access to sanitary toilets, and 24 percent or 325,420 persons, or 65,084 households, have none.
Dr. Edgardo Barredo, chief of the Provincial Health Office, said there is need for sustained information and education campaigns down to the barangay levels against open defecation and that local governments should adopt strategies and legislation to achieve such target. The Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program is basically targeted at changing the behavior of the people.
Local government, health, and sanitation officials described the practice of open defecation as “customary” and “still a widespread phenomenon in coastal, midland and upland areas, and in urban and peri-urban barangays.”
Apart from commitment to advocacy, implementation and personal support to the project, those present at the summit identified a list of measures to undertake for better sanitation practices in the province.
The signatories committed to develop local sanitation enterprise/sanitation marketing, monitor the progress towards achieving ZOD in Negros Oriental.
Degamo said the provincial government will fully support the program and allocate a budget for advocacy and similar information dissemination campaigns.
He said LGUs can learn from and replicate the experience of Bindoy in its implementation of a program against open defecation. The town, headed by Mayor Valente Yap, recently launched its ZOD campaign to educate residents against the hazards of the unsanitary practice of open defecation.
Yap said that in 2013, about 59 percent of the 8,681 households in his town have latrines, and 2,919 are without access to sanitary toilets. With the technical assistance of the World Bank-Water Sanitation Project, the number was significantly reduced this year, and the town aims to achieve a zero open defecation by end of 2015, he added.
The Sangguniang Bayan of Bindoy also approved an ordinance this year prohibiting open defecation, and aside from payment of fines of P200 for second offenders, and P1,000 for third offense, the violators will also undergo counseling, clean the public area where he or she defecated, and do community service.
Bindoy and La Libertad in Negros Oriental are the pilot areas for the ZOD program, with a target of open defecation-free by 2016.
The commitment signatories included Degamo, Yap, Mayor Kit Mark Adanza of Zamboanguita, the vice mayors of San Jose, Siaton, Zamboanguita, and Sibulan, and barangay and health officials.*JFP/JG