Using ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanner, a Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Central and MIMAROPA regional offices team discovered on April 11 the sewage treatment facility of Sea Jane Resto Bar to be leaking to be leaking through a large hole and releasing black and foul-smelling liquids that flow directly into El Nido’s Bacuit Bay. (Photos courtesy of El Nido Protected Area Management Office)

A seafood restaurant in El Nido is facing possible closure if it will be found guilty of discharging wastewater without the required permit or if effluent samples collected from its septic tank will fail to meet the water quality standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

A press statement sent Monday by the DENR MIMAROPA said Sea Jane Resto Bar’s sewage treatment facility in Barangay Buena Suerte was discovered to be leaking through a large hole and releasing black and foul-smelling liquids that flow directly into El Nido’s Bacuit Bay on April 11.

The leak was discovered during an excavation activity done in connection with the ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanning led by a team from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Central and MIMAROPA regional offices.

“During the excavation, a portion at the beach area fronting Sea Jane Resto Bar was seen with black sand indicating a potential source of the untreated discharge. Apparently, filthy water gushed out when a park ranger from El Nido’s Protected Area Management Office dug deeper into the site using only a shovel,” the DENR statement said.

It further stated that the backhoe from the municipal government of El Nido was used to continue the excavation, which later on revealed that the wastewater was indeed from a large opening underneath the flooring of Sea Jane Resto Bar.

The owner of the restaurant, who was contacted through a phone call because he was not around at the moment of excavation, explained that their septic tank was sealed and that the hole was probably hit by the heavy equipment.

But the Protected Area Management Office maintained that the activity was fully documented and the black sand was already exposed prior to the use of the backhoe.

The owner of the establishment committed to repairing their damaged septic tank.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in the MIMAROPA Region immediately collected wastewater samples for testing and analysis.

The result of the water sampling shall serve as the basis for the DENR’s next legal actions, which may include possible issuance of a cease and desist order against the restaurant.

“We have to stop them, and all other erring establishments from polluting Bacuit Bay and from putting the lives and health of people at risk,” DENR MIMAROPA regional executive director Henry Adornado was quoted in the statement.

Bacuit Bay encompasses the islands of El Nido in Palawan. It serves as a jump-off area for tourists going to the famous Big and Small lagoons and Hidden Beach. Unfortunately, portions of the bay were contaminated with high coliform levels because of irresponsible discharges of wastewater coming from establishments and households.

In February 2018, the DENR created Task Force El Nido and started working with partner agencies and the local government of El Nido to rehabilitate the area. Part of the island restoration process is to remove sources of wastewater that continue to pollute the bay.

It can be recalled that on April 6, DENR, EMB, and MGB in MIMAROPA through the latter’s GPR equipment, detected and removed a six-meter-long PVC pipe connected to a hostel in Brgy. Corong-Corong.

The sewage line, which was illegally constructed within the easement zone, was also found discharging wastewater directly into Bacuit Bay.

“Mahirap dahil iniisa-isa natin ang mga establishments, pero nakikita po ninyo na sama-sama kami at hindi kami titigil sa pag-aayos ng El Nido,” Adornado stated.