The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to charge the management of a beach hostel in El Nido after the discovery of its “illegally installed” polymerizing vinyl chloride (PVC) pipeline within the easement zone over the weekend.
A statement sent to Palawan News Tuesday by the DENR MIMAROPA Region said the PVC pipeline was excavated from the beachfront of Outpost Beach Hostel in Barangay Corong-Corong through the use of the ground penetrating radar (GPR) by a survey team of the regional and central offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
“The pipeline measuring six inches in diameter and six meters in length was uncovered in front of Outpost Beach Hostel in Corong-Corong. It was also found discharging black and foul-smelling liquid directly into Bacuit Bay, one of the province’s ecotourism sites undergoing massive rehabilitation,” the statement said.
The DENR MIMAROPA said to confirm the source of the wastewater, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) used a green tracer solution into Outpost Beach Hostel’s last chamber to which the excavated pipe was connected.
“After almost 20 minutes, the green solution drained into the said pipe, indicating that the said establishment was the one discharging wastewater from the tank. The EMB shall be conducting further investigation to determine if there are other sources of wastewater discharge aside from the hostel,” it pointed out.
Paul Sepulveda, one of the co-owners of Outpost Beach Hostel, reportedly admitted that they owned the pipe.
Nevertheless, the statement said DENR MIMAROPA regional executive director Henry Adornado ordered the immediate removal of the sewage line as it violates the provisions of Presidential Decree 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines, which prohibits structures within the easement zones without permission from the government.
“The law is clear, and so was our appeal to everybody to cooperate with us in rehabilitating El Nido. We will continue to implement measures to find out if there are others who are doing the same and continuously disregarding our call to follow the rule of law. We will hold them responsible,” Adornado said in the statement.
The management of Outpost Beach Hostel volunteered to cut the sewage line, but contested they are able to secure a discharge permit and the effluent samples taken from their sewage treatment facility passed the water quality guidelines of the DENR.
Previously, the establishment was issued a notice of violation by the EMB for releasing wastewater exceeding the standards.
Sepulveda said they are currently complying their commitments with the EMB.
Last year, the DENR created Task Force El Nido to spearhead the restoration of the famous island paradise found beset by environmental problems, such as encroachment of easement zones and high coliform levels in Bacuit Bay.
The DENR, together with the local government unit of El Nido, has organized several stakeholder meetings to inform and engage both the residents and business establishment owners in restoring the beauty and cleanliness of the famous beach destination.
Under the directive of Secretary Roy Cimatu, the DENR pronounced it will be aggressive in enforcing the laws against anyone who would violate the environment.
“The Outpost Beach Hostel’s continuous use of hidden sewage lines despite our warnings is a clear violation of the law and a blatant disregard for the environment that provides them a livelihood. They are also putting the lives of tourists and residents in danger as they continue to pollute Bacuit Bay,” Adornado was further quoted.
“We have no choice but to perform necessary actions to prevent them from further degrading nature,” Adornado said.
Meanwhile, the excavation site was filled with sand using the backhoe sent by the local government of El Nido. The end of the cut pipe was left open for sampling and analysis by the EMB.
“We have to remind everyone that we are preparing Bacuit Bay as Water Quality Management Area so we shall be conducting regular water sampling and analysis not only to Outpost Beach Hostel but also to other establishments to ensure they do not discharge untreated wastewater into Bacuit Bay,” EMB Regional Director Michael Drake Matias said.
Besides regular effluent sampling, the DENR and the MGB have been conducting a GPR survey of the coastal areas of El Nido since March 18 to detect buried waste pipelines. They are calling business establishments to take Outpost Beach Hostel as an example to avoid interruption in their business operations.
“You cannot hide them (pipes) forever. We will eventually uncover them so we advise you to remove your illegal sewage lines and comply with the laws for your own good,” MGB MIMAROPA regional director Roland De Jesus was also quoted in the statement.
The DENR, EMB, and MGB in MIMAROPA vowed to impose the maximum penalty to any establishments found continuously breaking environmental rules and regulations; and employ unified action to ensure environmental protection remains as a top priority.