At the height of the massive rehabilitation of prime tourist destinations in the country, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its partner agencies met with the business sector and residents of Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro to strengthen collaborative efforts in addressing the alarming water pollution in the island, and eventually restore its glory as one of the cleanest tourist spots in the country.
Officials of key agencies in the rehabilitation, the DENR, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Department of Tourism, together with Department of Public Works and Highways, the local government of Puerto Galera represented by Mayor Rocky Ilagan, convened with an estimate of 300 business owners, tour operators, tourist guides, and residents, to update them on the state of the environment in Puerto Galera, and how some commercial and household establishments contribute to its degradation through their wastewater discharge.
Relative to this, the officials informed the stakeholders that a new set of requirements and a unified process flow in acquiring business permits shall be observed in 2020 to address the failing water quality in Sabang Bay, and as compliance with Republic Act 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018.
The officials explained that starting next year, business proponents must first secure discharge permits and other environmental clearances from the Environmental Management Bureau (DENR – EMB), and accreditation from the DOT before they could acquire a business or mayor’s permit. They have likewise reminded that municipal ordinances on sewage management are being prepared to ensure no untreated or partially treated wastewater would be discharged directly to Sabang Bay.
DENR – EMB MIMAROPA Regional Director Atty. Michael Drake Matias said they aim to fast track issuance of discharge permits but only after a thorough inspection of septic tanks.
“I hope you understand that as much as we would like to make the procedure more business-friendly, it is also our job to safeguard the water quality of Sabang Bay and we do that by making sure your septic tanks are watertight to avoid seepage,” he said.
Meanwhile, Task Force Puerto Galera Team Leader, Assistant Regional Director Vicente Tuddao, Jr., expressed that the partnership of concerned agencies and LGU, and the cooperation of the residents and business owners in Puerto Galera would help the island rehabilitate its problematic areas at the soonest possible time.
“We are getting there fast. With stronger institutional convergence, visible environmental compliance, heightened stakeholders involvement and cooperation, and facilitated the delivery of LGU commitments and responsibilities, we have set the ground running for the restoration of Puerto Galera,” ARD Tuddao remarked.
Task Force Puerto Galera was created by the DENR in February 2018 to spearhead the rehabilitation of the famous island after alarming coliform levels have been found present in Sabang Bay due to untreated or partially treated wastewater discharge. The task force is composed of representatives from the DILG and DOT and other concerned national agencies and works closely with the local government unit.
Since its inception, Task Force Puerto Galera has served Notices to Vacate to commercial structures built within the legal easement zone and has recommended to the LGU demolition of those who failed to comply within the specified period. They have also issued Notices of Violations and Cease and Desist Orders to those who were found non-compliant to environmental laws such as Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004. (With photos and reports from PENRO Oriental Mindoro, CENRO Socorro.)