Cimatu orders 6-month El Nido rehab

Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu (right) observes as the interagency team validates the three-meter easement zone in the coastal area of Barangay Buena Suerte on Wednesday.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Wednesday ordered the six-month rehabilitation of El Nido town.

Cimatu issued the order during his visit to the town on Wednesday along with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año.

“We are asking all these things for us to improve El Nido. I would like to assure you that is really our intention. We will give you six months to fully rehabilitate El Nido,” Cimatu said.

The order, he said, is to give the municipality “enough time to implement necessary measures that will address its current environmental issues, to clean up, and fully restore itself.”

Barangay Buena Suerte will be closed to the public for swimming starting November 29 after it was found to have high fecal coliform prevalence at 1,300 parts per million (PPM) by the DENR’s Environment Management Bureau. Mayor Nieves Rosento said the coastal village is where the municipal sewer empties into the sea.

Puyat clarified the town need not be closed like Boracay because of the immediate response of the municipal government.

“The LGU has been very responsive, so we really will not go for closure,” she said.

Mayor Nieves Rosento said that based on their monitoring, the coastal water in Barangay Buena Suerte was found to have a high fecal coliform presence at 1,600 parts per million (ppm) which went down just recently to 1,300 ppm.

Rosento said this is due to the non-compliance of some establishments located near the shoreline and because the area is where their main outfall drains into the sea.

Puyat said the acceptable coliform level is 100 ppm which is very far from Buena Suerte’s current 1,300 coliform level.

“The acceptable is 100, so people should not be allowed to swim,” she said.

Rosento said she will issue on Thursday an order placing Buena Suerte off-limits from swimming until the acceptable coliform rate was again realized.

The mayor said the town will add another 20 monitoring stations to the current 14 to closely scrutinize the matter.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año lauded Mayor Nieves Rosento and other municipal officials of El Nido after personally observing the cleanliness of the beach in Bacuit Bay.

She said continuous monitoring will be conducted every 15 days to ensure the “water quality.”

Cimatu said it is important that the town learn the very source of the dirty water to be able to treat the outfall.

“Treat the outfall, kung saan nanggagaling i-treat niyo ‘yan,” said Cimatu.

Rosento said Buena Suerte is going to be where their second wastewater treatment facility will be constructed in six months.

“On going na po ‘yong paglalagay ng mga pipelines, so the commitment of the contractor will be within next year or within the next six months,” Rosento said.

Rosento added that the town will implement a new carrying capacity limit for each tour after 15 days so it can accommodate a smaller number of tourists.

“This is to avoid overcrowding and exceeding the holding capacity of the venues, thus to prevent damage,” she said.

Cimatu also said they are thinking if it is possible to add another 20-meter easement to maintain the buffer zone, and to have wider space for tourists on the beach.

“I think we can still do this… slowly lang siguro, hopefully, after six months may mga umatras na diyan,” he said.

Año, on the other hand, said the police will help in ensuring that the ban on smoking and liquor on the beach will be strictly imposed.

“Ang daming tourist attractions sa El Nido. Sa islands lang 45 na, so doon muna magfo-focus ang ating effort para magtuloy-tuloy ang mga turista. Ipapatupad din natin ang mga inisyatiba ng local government ng mga ordinansa katulad noong no smoking in public, especially in the beach area. Under process din yong pagpasa ng no drinking in the beach area so we hope mabilis ang pagpasa, and we shall implement that,” Año said.

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