(File photo) A team from the DENR posts a notice to the public regarding the cease and desist order (Photos from EMB MIMAROPA and El Nido PAO)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) served on Wednesday cease and desist orders (CDOs) to 10 hotels and restaurants in El Nido that were found “gravely polluting” Bacuit Bay.

The move is part of the undergoing massive rehabilitation in the town, one of the country’s important tourism hubs, a statement released Saturday morning by the agency said.

Ordered to cease operations are El Nido Sea Shell Resorts and Hotel in Brgy. Buena Suerte; Doublegem Beach Resort and Hotel, Buko Beach Resort, Panorama Resort (Mangonana Inc.), Four Seasons Seaview Hotel, and Stunning Republic Beach Resort, in Brgy. Corong-Corong; and Sava Beach Bar/Sava Nest Egg Inc., El Nido Beach Hotel, and The Nest El Nido Resorts and Spa, Inc. in Brgy. Masagana.

The orders were signed by Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-MIMAROPA regional director Atty. Michael Drake Matias.

Technical personnel of the DENR check the wastewater treatment facility of a business establishment in El Nido. (Photos from EMB MIMAROPA and El Nido PAO)

They cited that the establishments continuously discharged wastewaters without valid permits, which violates Rule 14.12 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 9275 or The Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

Under the Act, “disapproved applications or suspended or revoked wastewater discharge permits shall not grant any right or privilege to the applicant or former permit holder to discharge its wastewater into any body or bodies of water and/or land. Any discharge shall be a ground for the immediate issuance of a cease and desist order.”

The statement said the CDOs further noted that the hotels are discharging wastewaters that are greatly exceeding the allowable DENR standards “without any consideration of their impact and effect in the receiving body of water,” in this case, Bacuit Bay.

In the CDOs, the results of the laboratory analysis on the wastewater samples were specified to have gone beyond the DENR General Effluent Standards for Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD).

“BOD is a measure of the quantity of oxygen used by microorganisms when decomposing organic materials present in the water. It provides an index on how discharged wastewater affects its receiving environment. A high BOD indicates a high amount of organic matter present in the water sample,” the DENR statement said.

El Nido municipal administrator Rene Jay de la Calzada confirmed the DENR’s issuance of the CDO and said that the 10 establishments are just “initial” out of 80 more.

“Ten pa lang ‘yan, 80 plus ‘yan. Nag-start sila the other day — ang alam ko within next week tatapusin ‘yan. Alam mo they have to close… okay, there are 10 na una. Sa 10 na ‘yon, ang Cuna Hotel ay for closure na ‘yong kanilang STP (sewage treatment plant). Kung ikaw hotel, kung wala kang puwedeng pagtapunan ng wastewater, magsarado ka na. If not you will be fined P200,000 per day na open ka,” De la Calzada told Palawan News also Saturday morning.

He said six of the 10 hotels and restaurants will have to close within seven days or the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) will decide to shut them down.

De la Calzada said the establishments have no excuse not to comply with existing laws on wastewater management.

“Ngayon kung gusto nilang makipag-usap, doon na sa PAB. Hindi na sa DENR, hindi na sa local government unit. PAB na ‘yan kasi di nila inaayos ang compliance nila. Treatment kasi ‘yan at ang issue dito ‘yong clean water act. Kung hindi ka pumasa sa laboratory test, ibig sabihin you’re disposing of untreated wastewater. There is no excuse kasi each is required to have a wastewater treatment facility so hindi nila puwedeng iasa sa government ‘yan. If mayroon ang government, it’s basically for the households,” he pointed out.

Under orders from the PAB, the DENR also served a CDO to Cuna Hotel in Brgy. Maligaya, which has an existing complaint of discharging blackish and foul-smelling wastewater.

Likewise, the effluent sample taken from the said hotel has greatly exceeded the water quality standard set by the Department. The CDO issued to Cuna Hotel shall remain in force and in effect until modified or lifted by the Board or the DENR Secretary.

To ensure erring establishments refrain from discharging wastewater, a team from the DENR MIMAROPA spearheaded by its regional EMB, implemented the CDO to the 10 establishment by sealing all their identified water lines and facilities from their kitchens to the comfort rooms (faucets, kitchen sinks, lavatory, sewer lines, outlet pipes, etc.); and by posting a notice of their violations to the public.

“It is a tedious process but that is what the law prescribes. We make sure all our actions are done in due process,” Matias pointed out.

The establishments are placed under close watch to ensure their compliance with the order. Nonetheless, the DENR statement said the team is also monitoring the rest of business structures in El Nido by continuously checking their wastewater discharges.

“We have initiated investigations on other hotels and restaurants and we are just waiting if the results of their effluent samples would merit the issuance of CDO,” DENR MIMAROPA regional director Henry Adornado was also quoted in the statement.

“Until these erring establishments have shaped up, we have no other choice but to enforce the law and stop them from polluting El Nido,” he remarked.

The ongoing rehabilitation of El Nido forms part of the strong directive of Secretary Roy Cimatu to protect all bodies of water in the country so that the people may enjoy their most beneficial use. The DENR has likewise called for solidarity of public and private sectors in environment protection initiatives to achieve and ensure clean water for all.

“We have long benefited from El Nido. It is about time we all realize that we have a shared responsibility to protect and save it from degradation so that we and the generations to come can still savor the beauty and natural resources that this wonderful island has to offer, ” the director concluded.

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