The Department of Environment and Natural Resources served recently Cease and Desist Orders against business establishments found violating Clean Water Act and contributing to the failing water quality of Bacuit Bay in El Nido and Coron Bay in Coron, two of the country’s prime tourist destinations undergoing massive rehabilitation.

The CDO stated that the hotels have discharged wastewater that greatly exceeded the allowable DENR effluent standards, which is a violation of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

Ordered to cease and desist from undertaking any activity and/or operating machines and equipment generating pollution were five establishments in El Nido, namely View Deck Cottages, Lagun Hotel, Spin Designer Hotel, La Casa Teresa Tourist Inn, Inc., and Mansion Buenavista Guest House.

The wastewater of these hotels, the CDO further stated, drains to Bacuit Bay through Masagana, Buena Suerte, Maligaya and Corong-corong outfalls, which were likewise recorded with soaring fecal coliform count.

As this develops, Secretaries Roy Cimatu (DENR), Eduardo Año (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (Department of Tourism) announced on August 1 that while El Nido shall remain open during its rehabilitation, a swimming ban shall be imposed on selected areas in Bacuit Bay particularly those near the aforementioned outfalls.

At present, the identified beach areas are cordoned off and signages are installed to remind the public of the no swimming policy.

Meanwhile in Coron, the DENR also served CDO against Busuanga Sea Dive Resort, Corto Del Mar, Coron Gateway Hotel, Sophia’s Garden Resort, and Pearl Vista De Coron Resort.

Similarly, these hotels were found to have released wastewater into Coron Bay, contributing to the presence of high coliform count in some portions of it.

Coron and Bacuit Bays are two significant bodies of water identified as Class SB or suitable for ecotourism and recreational activities, such as bathing, swimming and skin diving. Unfortunately, various factors, such as encroachment of easement zones and waterways by business structures and households, degrade the quality of these water bodies, and keep the public from enjoying their most beneficial use.

“Makikita po natin na kagagawan din ng tao kung bakit marumi ang ating mga katubigan at hindi natin ito napapakinabangan ng husto,” DENR MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado stated.

“Kung tao ang dahilan, tao rin ang makakagawa ng paraan para malinis ang ating karagatan. At gagawin natin ‘yan sa pagpapatupad ng batas sa sinuman napatunayang lumapastangan sa ating kapaligiran, tulad nga ng paghahain nitong mga CDO,” he remarked.

Besides enforcement of environmental laws, other measures are put in place to save problematic water areas. In 2016, Coron Bay was designated as a Water Quality Management Area (WQMA), an integrated water quality management system designed to protect and save bodies of water through the collaborative efforts of the government and various stakeholders.

Bacuit Bay, on the other hand, is undergoing preparations for its establishment as WQMA. EMB MIMAROPA has conducted this year four orientation meetings so far, on January 29, March 27, May 29, and recently last August 2, to orient stakeholders on the stages of establishing a WQMA as well as the water quality status of Bacuit Bay.

“We have to start at educating our stakeholders on their duties in protecting the environment, and the accompanying sanctions should they fail to fulfill such,” EMB MIMAROPA Regional Director Michael Drake Matias said.

“We hope that the public, especially the business sector, would understand that what we are doing, the stakeholders forum as well as the issuance of the CDO against erring establishments, form part of our shared responsibility to protect nature and preserve it for future generations,” he concluded.

The CDO was served and implemented by a team from EMB MIMAROPA, PENRO Palawan, CENRO Taytay, CENRO Coron, and El Nido Protected Area Management Office, assisted by the Municipal Governments of El Nido and Coron. Part of the implementation included posting of a public notice on the violation of the concerned establishment and sealing of all its water lines and facilities to prevent it from releasing wastewater. (With reports and photos from EMB MIMAROPA and El Nido PAO) ###