(Image courtesy of El Nido MENRO)

The regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to investigate reports that domestic wastewater from nearby establishments have been drained to an outfall that discharged “black water” into Bacuit Bay in El Nido.

In a statement released Saturday, the department’s regional office said it has received an initial report from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in MIMAROPA and the El Nido Protected Area Management Office (ENPAMO) explaining that the barangay captain of Masagana, Edilberto Templado, had authorized the discharging of water into the bay in order to clear the outfall “so rainwater would drain into the sea and prevent flooding in the village”.

The DENR MIMAROPA’s statement claimed that Templado explained that the outfall is draining water coming from nearby mountains and those that pass through the national road, Tabanca Road, and some portions of Brgy. Maligaya.

During high tide, however, sands build up and block the outfall, causing water to settle and eventually flood the village, especially during typhoons.

Templado said he ordered the waterway to be cleared to prevent the town from being inundated by the other night’s rainfall. The channel opened and eventually flushed out the stagnant, black water seen in Bacuit Bay on October 22.

He maintained that what flowed from the outfall was not sewage water as most establishments in the area are still not operational.

Despite Templado’s statements, the DENR said it is already taking actions to make sure that the said waterway does not release dirty water into the bay.
“We have taken water samples for testing and we will also conduct tracing to determine if there are commercial establishments that drain their wastewater into that outfall,” said EMB MIMAROPA regional director Michael Drake Matias in the statement.

The water samples are tested for Fecal Coliform, Total Suspended Solids, Dissolved Oxygen, Nitrate, Phosphate, pH, Color, and Temperature.

As of press time, the DENR and EMB are still waiting for the results of the tests.

Besides these initiatives, Matias added that the subject outfall shall likewise be included in stations being regularly monitored, such as Cabugao, El Nido Estero, Masagana, and Corong-Corong.

These outfalls from four priority barangays, namely Buena Suerte, Maligaya, Masagana, and Corong-Corong, are under strict monitoring as part of the government’s efforts to rehabilitate El Nido’s Bacuit Bay, portions of which were found polluted due to the discharge of untreated wastewater by several commercial establishments.

“We cannot afford to have another outfall that would degrade the water quality of Bacuit Bay, especially now that El Nido is slowly re-opening for tourism,” said also by DENR MIMAROPA regional executive director Maria Lourdes Ferrer.

“Just like before, we bank on our partnership with the LGU, the business sector, and the community, to prevent any form of destruction in our environment, and completely restore the beautiful island of El Nido,” she added.

On October 22, video footage and photos shared with Palawan News by concerned locals showed murky wastewater being discharged onto a popular tourist beach from a certain drainage system in El Nido.

In an interview, town administrator Raffy Cabate denied that the incident happened and claimed that those that were shared on social media were “reposted from last year”.

“It was a repost from last year. We will call whoever reposted it and be subjected to investigation. If found intentional, we will recommend for issuance of municipal council resolution as economic sabotage. (Repost lang man daw ‘yon ng nangyari pa last year. Ipapatawag din namin ang nag-repost na ‘yon to subject for investigation. If found to be intentional, ipapasa namin sa municipal council for further query and investigation, and recommend for issuance of resolution as economic sabotage),” said Cabate in a text message when sought for a statement.

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.