It may not be known as the place where one can find the Fountain of Youth in mythology. But it can surely be dubbed as a tourism paradise and is the biggest and reliable source of sweet water in the Philippines, if not the world over.
If you try to look at the map of eastern Visayas in the Philippines, it is likely that you will miss the opportunity to find a group of islands ringed by the provinces of Masbate, Biliran, Samar and Leyte. These islands are identified as Maripipi, Almagro, Santo Nino, Tagapul-an, Capul and other islets. Commonly known as remote places, the natural environment of these islands are well protected and preserved by the local folks, similar to that in the Batanes Islands.
And it is no wonder why the island of Maripipi, one of the biggest in the group, and part of the Biliran province, is home to a rich source of sweet water that has existed for many centuries. It is located in barrio Viga, just 15 kilometers away from the town proper. And what is puzzling about this water depot is that it never dries up even during the long hot summer months. The old folks are saying that it could be that this natural wonder serves as a watering hole of the people on the other side of the world.
But local officials credit its continuous flow of sweet water to the well-preserved topography and forest covers in the island. In short, destruction of the forest is not allowed under the local government regulations. Although there were cases in the past when some illegal logging activities have persisted owing to the laxity in the enforcement of environmental laws, but these were eventually corrected.
The local government has been thinking of constructing a water reservoir that is capable of supplying enough potable water to a large number of the population so that it would somehow earn revenues and provide employment to some local residents. But putting the proper infrastructures to make it fully operational has been the major stumbling block for the local government. Due to lack of funds, the proposed project to fully mechanize the distilling of the sweet water for commercial production was shelved until now.
In the absence of the proper infrastructures to make it, what the local officials did was to construct a concrete waterway and a cover to at least protect it from foreign objects that may contaminate the water tributary. If plans push through, there is a big possibility that the local government may also generate big revenues from the sale of safe bottled sweet water for local and international distribution.
At this point in time, the local government officials of Maripipi will be more than glad to welcome the idea for the Engineers Without Borders (www. ewb-usa.org) and other international non-government organizations to visit the island one of these days and help them in whatever way they can to make this wonderful project a reality for the islanders. At present, the locality of Maripipi has 14 coastal barangays scattered in a 24-kilometer circumference, surrounded by blue waters and teeming with vast carpet of coconut plantations that mingle with rich forest covers uphills.
The local folks believed that once this project is realized, majority of the population will greatly benefit from it, thus making a big diffirence in the lives of those who have depended so much from it as a basic need for many, many years to come.
Communications should be forwarded to the Office of the Mayor, Municipality of Maripipi, Province of Biliran, Philippines.