Seawater Quality and the Waste Management Practices in the Coastal Areas: Preserving Biodiversity and Addressing Socioeconomic Challenges in the Philippines

Seawater Quality and the Waste Management Practices in the Coastal Areas: Preserving Biodiversity and Addressing Socioeconomic Challenges in the Philippines

Published: 2023.08.22
Accepted: 2023.08.22
Asst Professor III
Research and Development Services, Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College, Philippines


This research study primarily aimed to determine the seawater quality in terms of its microbiological components using bacteriological assay and the laboratory test results from the obtained water samples.  This study is an environmental assessment conducted in the six coastal barangays in the Municipality of Batad in the Northern part of Iloilo, Philippines. These coastal barangays cover the 29 hectares of the huge fishing ground located within the Visayan Sea. Descriptive method of research was employed using survey questionnaire and documentary analysis to determine the waste disposal practices of the 120-household respondents living near the coastline taken by purposive sampling technique. Results revealed that people living near the coastal zones rely only on fishing as their major source of livelihood. Their monthly income is below poverty line, most are informal settlers and were found squatting near the coastal zones.  The respondents’ houses were made from non-concrete house materials which could be afforded through their monthly family income. The improper animal and human waste disposal into the body of water are attributed to the absence of some households’ proper toilets or open defecation. They disposed of their fecal materials into the water hence making the seawater contaminated and polluted. Results further revealed that high level content of coliform bacteria in the water is attributed to the poor sanitation facilities in the house and the waste disposal practices of the respondents. Relocation of families residing within the “no house perimeter zone” and the regular monitoring of the occurrence of bacteria in the seawater are highly recommended. Likewise, effective local ordinances on environmental protection must be crafted and/or enacted by the local executives in consonance with existing national environmental policy on ecological solid waste management act embodied in Republic Act 9003 of the Philippine Law.

Keywords: seawater quality, wastes management practices, Batad, Iloilo Coastal Zone, Philippines


The Municipality of Batad is a 5th class municipality located in the Northern tip of Iloilo Province, about 125 kilometers from the City of Iloilo.  It is bounded on the North by the municipalities of Balasan and Estancia, on the West by the municipality of Pilar, Capiz, on the south by the municipality of San Dionisio and by the Visayan Sea on the East. Batad is composed of 24 barangays, 18 are inland while 6 are located in the coastal areas (Ong, et. al., 2011).

The target recipients of this research study were six (6) coastal barangays in the municipality namely: Tanao, Alinsolong, Binon-an, Embarcadero, Salong, and Banban. The study specifically aims to: (1) Determine the demographic profile of the respondents living near the coastal zones; (2) Find out the waste disposal practices of the households among coastal communities;  (3) Relate the waste disposal practices of the households to the quality of seawater samples obtained from different sampling sites within the six coastal barangays as to the presence of the microbiological components;  and  (4) Design effective and high-quality extension framework/program for coastal communities for funding.

According to the record of the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) of the Municipality, the territorial coast of Batad produced seafood abundantly with prawns, crabs and all kinds of fishes that are plentiful during peak fishing months.  These products are sold within and outside of the municipality, such as neighboring towns, in the city of Iloilo, outside of the Province and even exported abroad.  Fish processing such as dried fish and other marine products are abundantly supplied by the coastal communities before. However, during the onslaught of the killer Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the place was severely devastated. According to the UN Joint Assessment Report and CEC-Philippines (2014), up to 3 km of mangroves in Brgy. Embarcadero, Municipality of Batad indicate signs of free phase oil contamination from the damaged oil-fired power plant in Estancia, Iloilo.  In the findings of Dr. Resureccion Sadaba of the Oil Response Program of the University of the Philippines Visayas, around 4 hectares of both old-growth and reforested mangrove areas in the Municipality of Batad are heavily covered with oil.   Among those affected is an area planted with 10-year-old mangrove species, Rhizophora stylosa.  The impact likewise damaged the fishing ground including the Municipal Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) of the municipality. The devastation left havoc to the coastal communities and mercilessly destroyed the livelihood of the entire fishing community (OCHA/UNEP/WHO, 2013).

Also, the proliferation of the inhabitants near these coastal zones and the improper waste disposal activities of the seaside communities became a serious problem.  Such habitat destruction is a major threat to biodiversity and is one of the leading causes of seawater contamination and eventual species extinctions. Consequently, the fishing industries in this Municipality is now at stake. Rapid population growth, unplanned developments, irresponsible tourism activities, and reclamation of mangrove areas are some of the major reasons of the degradation of the mangrove swamps. The lack of appropriate sanitation facilities and improper solid waste management practices made the mangrove swamps as liquid and solid waste catchment areas of informal settlers.  One consequence of such rapid unplanned development is the deteriorating coastal water quality manifested by reports of coliform counts (Ong,, 2011; OCHA/UNEP/WHO, 2013; Limates, et. al., 2016).

Aquatic pollution has become a global concern, but even so, most developing nations are still producing huge pollution loads and the trends are expected to increase. Waste pollution is an environmental threat that may affect those who are dependent on marine resource. Knowledge of the pollution sources and impacts on ecosystems is important not only for a better understanding on the ecosystem responses to pollutants but also to formulate prevention measures (Shahidul, et. al., 2004; Yoshioka, et. al., 2021; and Ferronato,,2019).

The study helps to answer the platform of The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 for Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Sector.  The study will also ultimately address the program of the government SDGs for health security, clean water and sanitation, poverty alleviation and reduction platform.

The results of this research study would provide baseline data to design high quality extension program in the Municipality in terms of intensive community capacity building on effective Solid Waste Management and Sewerage System, biodiversity conservation and natural resources management, and creation of livelihood opportunities for coastal people by enhancing community-based participation. This study would provide insights on the peoples’ valuation on the environmental benefit drawn from coastal areas and how solid wastes practices be corrected for environmental abatement. Likewise, management strategies and policy implementation and its relevance will most likely be implemented to improve coastal water quality. The strategies would open the awareness and participation of stakeholders in the coastal areas towards environmental conservation and protection of marine ecosystems to ultimately revive the fishery industries and ensure food security and livelihood resources of the coastal communities. Effective and responsible waste disposal management will involve active community-based participation and education of coastal communities and imposition of existing environmental laws and municipal ordinances (Ferronato,, 2019, Primavera, 2019).


The different materials used in the study were: interview questionnaire, camera, sterile plastic containers, reagent bottles, and cooler, crashed ice, distilled water, 70% Ethyl Alcohol, disposable gloves, and fishing boat.  This study used descriptive method of research to determine the waste disposal behaviors and laboratory assays to determine the microbiological profile of the seawater obtained from seawater samples from the six (6) water stations namely: Barangays Alinsolong, Banban, Binon-an, Embarcadero, Salong and Tanao. The respondents were one hundred-twenty (120) households directly living near the coast line of the six coastal barangays in the Municipality of Batad, Iloilo taken by purposive sampling. Data were statistically processed and analyzed using frequency count and percentages.

Administration of guided survey questionnaire

A guided interview, survey questionnaire and documentary analysis were utilized to determine the impact of socio-demographic profile and waste disposal practices of the coastal community to the seawater quality in Batad, Iloilo coastal zones. Pre-testing of the questionnaires was done among the people living in the same barangays but away from the coastal zones. A total of 120 households living near the coastal areas in the six barangays namely:(1) Tanao, (2) Binon-an (3) Alinsolong, (4) Banban, (5) Salong, and (6) Embarcadero served as the respondents of the study (Figure 1).   Responses were recorded for data analysis.

Gathering of water samples

The bacteriological assessment in terms of E. coli load was done in the six sampling sites representing the six coastal barangays in the Municipality of Batad, Iloilo. Surface water samples were collected about one foot below the water surface using six (6) sterilized 250 mL plastic bottles. Standard procedures were followed for the collection of water samples. Collection of sampled water was done by removing the cover of the bottle, holding the bottle near its base, and plunging the neck downward one foot below the surface. Samples were collected forward by sweeping of arm with the mouth of the bottle against the flow of the current. Samples were collected on the surface water from right, middle, and left section; mixed together as one that serves as a representative sample in every station. The samples were placed in a small thermo chest with crushed ice for preservation of the water samples. The collected water samples were clinically analyzed in a standard laboratory. Data gathered were recorded and analyzed (Water Quality Monitoring Manual, 2008; Zamira, et. al., 2021).  

Data analysis procedure

The data gathered were analyzed statistically using mean and percentages was used to find out and describe the quantified data on the waste management practices of the respondents in terms of socio-demographic profile, the sanitation facilities, the waste disposal practices of the respondents, and the E. coli load of the six different sampling stations. Laboratory analysis of the water was done in a standard laboratory to determine the microbiological component of the water to confer with the waste disposal practices of the respondents.


Socio-demographic characteristics

  • Occupation. In terms of occupation, 117 (98.00%) are fishermen and their income could only provide to support their basic needs. Therefore, they were unable to purchase garbage bins, sanitizers, and disinfectants. Conversely, some did observe proper hygiene and sanitation despite minimal income, since they prioritized the good health and wellness of their family.
  • Estimated monthly family income. Result showed, 98 (82.00%) of the respondents earned below Php 10, 000.00 a month (US$18.45 /month). The result implies that most of the respondents are earning below poverty line.
  • Lot ownership. Result revealed that 72 (60.00%) of the respondents are informal settlers and were found squatting near the coastal zones. The results further revealed that most of these respondents confirmed that they had sanitation facilities; however, during the survey and ocular inspection, the researchers found out that most of the settlers greatly contributed to the production of pollutants in the coastal area.
  • House material.  Data revealed that 105 (88.00 %) of the respondents’ house were made from non-concrete house materials which could be afforded through their monthly family income; however, their drainage systems ended up into the sea contributing to seawater pollution.
  • Number of household members. It was found out that, in each household, family members fell within the range of 1-7 persons. Data revealed that, 90 (75.00%) of the respondents were under this category. The number of household members equates the number of contributors liable for the environmental and water pollution.

Sanitation facilities in the house

  • Toilet facility. Data revealed that in terms of toilet facility, 68 (57.00%) most of the household’s toilets are with septic tank. It was also found out that, 28 (23.00%) of the respondents had no toilet. The presence of toilets with septic tanks among the respondents implies that they observed proper sanitation practices thereby lessening the microbial quantity of the seawater. However, 28 (23.00%) of the households along the six sampling stations used the seaside as their receptacle in depositing their fecal wastes.
  •  Bathroom facility. In terms of bathroom facility, most of the respondents revealed their toilets served also as their bathroom. Through observations and in correlation with the presence of toilet with septic tanks of the respondent’s house, the presence of the bathroom facility was viable. Therefore, proper sanitation practices were exhibited. Inversely, the presence of bathroom septic tanks did not prove that treatments and siphoning were practiced by the household owners rather, they let the wastes overflow directly into the sea.
  • Garbage facility. As to garbage facility in the house of the respondents, 29 (24.00%) of the respondents got garbage bin for segregated bio and non-biodegradable wastes, 45 (38.00%) of them got garbage bin for mixed bio and non-biodegradable wastes, and 46 (38.00%) of the respondents had no garbage bins.

The absence of garbage bin in most household of the respondents implies that they do not observe proper waste disposal; most of the people along the coastal area have no garbage bins with their garbage thrown directly into the sea. Eventually, increased E. coli load in seawater could be associated with improper waste disposal.

Waste disposal practices of the respondents

Household garbage disposal, animal and human waste, and preventive measures practices. The frequency of the respondents’ practices was determined using a 5-point Likert Scale and categorized as: 5-Always, 4-Often, 3-Sometimes, 2-Rarely, and 1-Never. A survey questionnaire was used to determine their waste disposal practices. As a result, most of the respondents sometimes practiced household garbage disposal with a mean of 3.38. They often practiced proper disposal of animal and human wastes as well as preventive measures and practices with a mean of 3.41and 4.20, respectively. The mean is the average computed values taken from responses made by 120 households in a survey questionnaire conducted by the researcher. The results were recorded in a weekly basis for a period of one month that served as a yardstick for their waste disposal practices committed in the area (Table 3).

As observed, the improper animal and human waste disposal was due to the absence of some households of proper toilets or open defecation. They disposed their fecal materials into the water hence making the seawater contaminated and polluted (Ong,, 2011; Limates, et. al., 2016; and Felisilda,, 2018).

The socio-demographic profile of the respondents in terms of estimated monthly family net income, which was below Php 10,000 (US$180.40), was a justification that they could not afford to buy disinfectants, thus contributing to the environmental pollutions and degradation of the quality of the seawater. 

E. coli load of water samples from six sampling stations

The water samples from the six sampling stations were subjected to E. coli determination. Laboratory results (Table 4) showed that water samples taken from six sampling stations were “positive” from Coliform bacteria; an “indicator bacteria” that the water is polluted and contaminated, therefore, unfit for human usage and recreational activities such as swimming.

The reason of having E. coli load during low tide was due to the stagnant to slow-moving flow of water; hence, the pollutants stayed in that particular area and the rate of decomposition of organic materials hastened causing increase of pollutants. During high tide, most of the pollutants that stayed along the water, were carried and combined with the incoming seawater and were distributed to the other parts of the coastal areas. The presence of pollutants in the surface water caused. coli load to increase.  Coliform bacteria (E. coli) can be detrimental to human health when contaminated feces of both human and animals manage to enter the water system; hence, it is crucial to determine the source of contamination. The most probable number (MPN) using Colilert-18 test is a statistical method test based on the random dispersion of microorganisms per volume in each sample. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved and included in Standard Methods for Examination of Water and Wastewater. A count of 1–10 MPN/100 ml is regarded as low risk; 11–100 MPN/100 ml is medium risk. Finally, an E. coli count greater than 100 MPN/100 ml is adjudged high risk. In this case, a laboratory test result indicated that the amount of E. coli in water is greater than 200MPN. The results are greater than the standard value, which therefore post hazard to humans and animals (Table 4). The quality of water is getting vastly deteriorated due to unscientific waste disposal and improper waste management and careless towards protecting the environment. Increased anthropogenic activities in and around water bodies damage the aquatic systems and ultimately the physico-chemical properties of water. The pollution of coastal water affects the marine organisms which are at the vicinity of the coast (Felisilda,, 2018; Raña, et. al.,2018; and Andrade,, 2011).

As observed by the researcher during low tide, the current of the water flowed downstream and flushed the bacteria to the sea, while during high tide, the current flowed upstream and the bacteria were concentrated on the surface water; hence, the bacterial load increased.

The water sample collected and subjected for analysis was obtain during high and low tides (Table 4).  Data revealed that the growth of E. coli did not depend on the tide of the river water but on other factors like fecal materials from animals and humans, garbage, and industrial effluence. These fecal materials contributed to the increasing number of coliform bacteria. Fecal coliform test is an important tool that helps scientists determine whether it is safe to surf and swim at the beach. E. coli load increased since garbage thrown directly into the water caused the rate of decomposition faster. This act caused the death of aerobic bacteria through oxygen depletion by the increase of sediments which causes turbidity and are replaced by anaerobic bacteria (Felisilda,, 2018).

Securing livelihoods, preserving biodiversity and addressing socioeconomic challenges for a healthy economy

In achieving its goal, for a healthy economy- securing livelihood preserving biodiversity and addressing socioeconomic challenges the Local Government Unit (LGU) implemented the following activities: 

Coastal rehabilitation and community participation. Environmental conservation and protection of the coastal area in the Municipality of Batad, Iloilo, Philippines (Figure 2) can be attained through the establishment of mangrove forests and creation of MPAs. These can be done through community-based participatory approaches that encourage shared decision-making, cooperation, collaboration, mutual respect, confidence building and empowerment. By incorporating such elements into all levels of developmental activities, communities become more engaged, informed, and responsible for their own sustainable development. Such approaches build capacity, resource continuity and livelihood security. It increases learning and strengthens capacity for the protection of human beings and marine creatures (Felisilda,, 2018; Raña,, 2018; and Andrade, 2011; DENR Guide Book, 2010; and Cabral, 2014).

Information dissemination campaign.  The education of individuals, families, and communities about environmental protection, food security, and blue economy shall be done. Intensive Capacity Building like: a. Effective Solid Waste Management and Sewerage System shall be conducted in the coastal communities; b) Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resources Management; c) Livelihood opportunities for coastal communities; d) Production of Modules and IEC Materials.; and e) Organize effective, functional and sustainable coastal community association. The extension activities will be conducted by the LGU through the Office of Research Development and Extension Services of the Northern Iloilo State University, its partner academic institution.

Crafting and implementation of laws. Relocation of families residing within “no house perimeter area” to lessen the presence of pollutants and continuously monitor the presence of bacteria is also recommended. Likewise, effective local ordinances on environmental protection must be crafted and/or enacted by the local executives. Regular monitoring and evaluation of the project is likewise necessary.


People living near the coastal zones rely only on fishing as their major source of livelihood. Their monthly income is below poverty line, most are informal settlers and were found squatting near the coastal zones. The respondents’ houses were made from non-concrete house materials which could be afforded through their monthly family income. The coastal water of the municipality is found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria as an indicator that the water is contaminated and polluted. It will pose significant ecological risk and public health risk if not remedied. The sanitation facilities in the house and the waste disposal practices of the respondents were contributory factors in the increase of bacteriological load in the coastal water of Batad. Conversely, some did observe proper hygiene and sanitation despite minimal income, since they prioritized the good health and wellness of their families.

(Note: As part of the recommendation made in this study, an extension proposal was made entitled: “From Ridge-to-Reef: A Community-Based Participatory Approach to Biodiversity Conservation of Marine Resources in Batad, Iloilo, Philippines. The proposal had passed the 1st Phase of Evaluation under the National Agriculture and Fisheries Education System (NAFES) of CHED Central Office in collaboration with the Local Government Unit (LGU), Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources (PGENRO) of the Province of Iloilo, Farmers Information and Technology Services (FITS) Center and Northern Iloilo State University, Batad Campus).


The author is grateful to support of the Office of Research and Development Services of the Northern Iloilo State University  in Northern Iloilo, Philippines in collaboration with the Local Government Unit and the Local Executives of the six coastal Barangays in the Municipality of Batad, Iloilo who accompanied with the research team and for having provided with the fishing boat to carry out the activity especially during the conduct of the interview and in gathering of the water samples for laboratory analysis.


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