DENR orders 49 Siargao businesses

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday said 49 business establishments were ordered to address environmental problems to ensure that “responsible ecotourism” is sustained in the internationally popular surfing island of Siargao in Surigao del Norte province.


As this developed, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu lauded the DENR-CARAGA regional office for swiftly responding on his order to identify tourism service providers that have violated environmental laws.


“This is an example of quick action by our regional officials,” the DENR chief said. “Within two months, they have finished surveying tourism establishments in the beautiful (Siargao) island and they have already separated those who are compliant with environmental laws and those who are not,” Cimatu added.


“Siargao is still one of the country’s best tourist destinations, but if we want to sustain its viability as an international surfing capital we must show that we are all helping to protect and conserve its environment.” Cimatu said.


Data from the DENR-CARAGA showed that out of 148 businesses in Siargao Island, 49 establishments have been given notices of violations (NOVs) for violating either the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, or the Environmental Impact Statement System.


The landscape and seascape of Siargao had been classified as a protected area, although in recent years it has become a favorite destination of international surfers, and mass tourism has boomed in the entire island.


Violations of the businesses, which are mostly resorts and restaurants, include failing to secure environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) and absence of sewage treatment facilities.


“Right now, they are serving notices of violations to the identified establishments, and by the end of the month, they aim to finish serving them, conducting the associated technical conferences, and determining whether to elevate the case to the Pollution Adjudication Board,” Cimatu said.


Aside from identifying violating establishments, the regional environmental officers of CARAGA also identified the problems threatening the island, which include inconsistent water quality, the issuance of business permits by the local government without requiring an ECC, absence of sewage and septage treatment facilities, coastal encroachment, improper solid waste management, inadequate drainage system, and the inadequate utilization of the environmental fee.


“This should be the template by which other regions should conduct their inspection and monitoring activities. We want to be fast, but follow the law at the same time,” Cimatu said.


Siargao Island is protected under a presidential decree signed by then President Fidel V. Ramos in 1996. The Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape is home to birds such as the Mindanao tarictic, Rufous hornbill, Philippine magpie-robin, and many other endemic flora and fauna.


Meanwhile, DENR-CARAGA officials said they are also seeking support for the fast tracking of approval for the 10-year solid waste management plans of local government units, gathering support for the construction of a sanitary landfill, coordination on the collection, transportation and treatment of sewage and septage, mandating an ECC as a requirement for business permits, and requiring resorts and other establishments to set up their own sewage treatment plants. These measures are aimed at securing the future of Siargao as a sustainable tourist destination, they said. ###

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