DENR intensifies crackdown to curb wastewater pollution in Boracay

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will not hesitate to close down commercial establishments found to be releasing untreated wastewater and sewage into the waters of the world-famous Boracay Island, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu warned on Saturday.

Cimatu had already instructed local DENR field offices that have jurisdiction over Boracay to inspect the sewer facilities of all businesses on the island following reports that many of them are not connected to the sewerage system and their wastewater drained into the sea.

“We need a serious and honest-to-goodness crackdown on these erring establishments that are contributing to water pollution in Boracay,” the former Armed Forces chief said.

He added: “We will not hesitate to take firm action against those who have clearly violated the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. Aside from facing business closures, we will make sure that violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Cimatu said the DENR is now closely coordinating with the Department of Tourism (DOT) in identifying Boracay establishments that are discharging their untreated wastewater directly to the sea or illegally connecting to the drainage system of the DOT’s Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

“Our primary action is to identify these illegal connections and issue them notices of violation,” he added.

Explaining further, Cimatu’s spokesperson DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones pointed out that all tourism establishments on the island are required to connect to the sewage treatment plant of the Boracay Island Water Company (BIWC).

However, he said that instead of connecting to the BIWC treatment plant, some establishments tapped into TIEZA’s drainage system that is only intended for rain water.

“These drainage pipes can only accommodate rainwater; wastewater should not be directed there. Thus, the pipes overflowed and wastewater was discharged directly to Boracay beach,” Leones explained.

Leones cautioned that the “mere connection” to TIEZA’s drainage system was already a violation.

He said the challenge for the DENR is to identify the businesses that are illegally connected to the drainage pipes. “With the huge number of establishments in the island, we have to trace the source and endpoint,” he said.

Leones said the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) is tasked to ensure that all industries comply with effluent standards.

“If these firms can manage their wastewater through good housekeeping that will be fine. But if they cannot, wastewater should be treated,” he said.

Under the DENR’s procedures, a notice of violation will be issued against an erring establishment, which will be called to a technical conference.

The violator will then be given one or two months to address their violations. The EMB will evaluate their compliance.

If the issues were not addressed, the EMB can elevate the case to the Pollution Adjudication Board with a recommendation to issue a cease and desist order against the violator. ###

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