DENR to remove illegal structure in Coron Bay


As part of its campaign to address water pollution and other environmental problems in popular tourist destinations, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources says illegal structures in Coron Bay in Palawan have to be removed.

These include more than 4,000 informal settler families who need relocation and business establishments built either on the water or encroaching on easement zones and mangroves.

Regional Director Natividad Bernardino of DENR MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), who spoke before a crowd of around 250 business owners at the Stakeholders’ Forum at Coron Coliseum on Tuesday, explains the agency has to do this difficult move to address high levels of coliform contamination in Coron Bay.

DENR identifies the absence of a centralized sewage treatment facility as the major problem that led to the deterioration of water quality in Coron Bay. Establishments discharge untreated wastewater while informal settlers dispose of all their wastes directly into the bay. Another source of pollutants are tourist and passenger boats emitting oil into the water.

“We need to decongest Coron Bay and ensure compliance to environmental regulations. We are appealing to the Provincial Government of Palawan and the local government of Coron to provide resettlement for the informal settlers who were previously identified as beneficiaries of the typhoon Yolanda relocation program” explains Bernardino.

DENR MIMAROPA created the Task Force Coron which will inspect more than 750 establishments, about half of them cater to tourists, for compliance to environmental regulations, easement zone provisions of the Clean Water Act, Water Code, and Forestry Code.

Task Force Coron has started the inspection last week and already found some hotels, restaurants, and dive shops atop stilts in Coron Bay. The Task Force is recommending the dismantling of these structures.

Bernardino admits though that Coron Bay is more congested and its rehabilitation may be more difficult because of the presence of a huge number of informal settlers who will need relocation before they can be demolished.

Coron’s iconic islands, lake, and rich marine resources draw more than 175, 000 tourists in the last two years. This has increased the demand for hotels, restaurants, and other services, exerting pressure on this small town’s becoming a problem for more residents and establishments.

Representatives of the local government of Coron, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Tourism, the Philippine Navy, and the Philippine Coast Guard who were present during the forum expressed full support for DENR’s initiative.

DOT MIMAROPA Regional Director Maria Luisa Diploma says the department is also closely monitoring tourist destinations in the region. She said, “kung hindinatinaalagaanangmgaito, ‘di narinmasisiyahangpumuntaangmgaturista.” She said that they will now require all tourist establishments to have proper wastewater discharge facilities before they can get DOT accreditation.

Coron Mayor AjericoBaracoso, meanwhile, said that the LGU has already formulated a project feasibility study for the construction a P400 million-peso centralized sewage treatment plant and is seeking fund support from DOT and other agencies concerned.

Business owners, recognizing the growing environmental problems and their potential impact to business, also express willingness to cooperate with the clean-up of Coron Bay and convey their appeal to DENR and other government agencies concerned.

Francisco Fernandez, president of Calamianes Association of Tourism Establishments (CATE) sought clarification if establishments without proper wastewater treatment facilities will be allowed to operate until the centralized sewage treatment plant is built.

Bernardino explains that as an interim measure, individual businesses should set up their own septic treatment facilities or they can enter into an agreement with companies that can provide desludging and sewage treatment services.

Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer EribertoSaños appreciates the high level of environmental awareness of the people of Coron, but he said, “environmental awareness is not enough, we need to act to preserve the country’s resources.”