(Photo from EMB MIMAROPA and El Nido PAO)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued cease and desist orders (CDOs)  to some 10 business establishments in El Nido and Coron that were found violating the Clean Water Act and contributing to the failing water quality of the bays of the two municipalities.

A press statement sent by the Regional Public Affairs Office of the DENR 4B MIMAROPA late Monday said the CDOs were issued on August 1 in El Nido and August 2 in Coron.

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

Ordered to stop engaging in business activities and/or operating machines and equipment generating pollution in El Nido were View Deck Cottages, Lagun Hotel, Spin Designer Hotel, La Casa Teresa Tourist Inn, Inc., and Mansion Buenavista Guest House.

The press statement said the wastewater of these hotels drain into Bacuit Bay through the outfalls in Barangays Masagana, Buena Suerte, Maligaya, and Corong-Corong. The four sites reportedly have “soaring fecal coliform count”.

On August 1, the national task force overseeing the clean-up in El Nido announced that while it shall remain open during rehabilitation, a swimming ban will be imposed in selected areas in Bacuit Bay, particularly in the four barangays were the outfalls are located.

The announcement was jointly made by Sec. Roy Cimatu of the DENR, Sec. Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The statement said the identified villages fronting beach areas where there is high coliform level had already been cordoned off with signages installed to remind the public of the “no swimming policy”.

In Coron, the DENR issued the cease and desist orders against the 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, the statement said.

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 on 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 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 was quoted by the statement in saying.

Adornado said if the water pollution is caused by the residents of the town, then it is also their responsibility to correct what is wrong so they bays can be useful again.

He said the DENR will not hesitate to enforce the law no matter what.

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

Besides the enforcement of environmental laws, other measures are put in place to save problematic water areas, the statement said.

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.

The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in MIMAROPA has conducted this year four orientation meetings — January 29, March 27, May 29, and 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,” the statement quoted EMB MIMAROPA regional director Michael Drake Matias.

Matias said that the EMB hopes that the public, particularly the businesses, would understand what the government is doing.

“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 CDOs against erring establishments, form part of our shared responsibility to protect nature and preserve it for future generations,” he said.

The CDOs were 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.

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