DENR, business groups agree on immediate construction of sewerage treatment plants in Boracay

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has entered into an agreement with major business groups in Boracay for the immediate construction of sewerage treatment plants (STPs) by resort owners and other establishments in order to address water quality problems in the world-famous resort island.

The agreement was reached during a meeting between DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu and officials of Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI) and Boracay Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (BCCP) and the Filipino Chinese Chamber Federation Iloilo Chapter on Saturday, following the discovery of old drainage and septic tank, and several pipes discharging wastewater into the beach.

Both the DENR and Boracay businesses have committed to the strict implementation of Malay Municipal Ordinance No. 307 that requires establishments with 50 rooms and above to install their own STPs and allow the discharge of wastewater that pass “Class SB” standard to the existing drainage.

Class SB refers to waters that are fit for ecotourism and recreational activities, including swimming, bathing and diving.

Under the agreement, establishments with 49 rooms and below may opt to construct cluster STPs with their neighboring establishments.

The construction of STPs by resort owners and other Boracay establishments is just one of many solutions being considered for Boracay, which has been ordered closed to tourists for six months starting last April 26 to pave the way of its rehabilitation.

Cimatu reiterated that Boracay’s reopening would depend on its water quality. “Unless the water quality improved and compliant to our standard, I will not allow the reopening of Boracay,” Cimatu told representatives of Boracay business groups during the meeting.

Among those present in the meeting were BFI president Neneth Graf, BCCP’s Wesley Van Der Hoort and June Adiaton, Alfonso Tan of GT Hotel, and James Molina of Boracay Haven.

DENR-Western Visayas Director Jim Salpulna, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Region 6 Director Ramar Neil Pascua, and DENR Task Force Boracay ground commander Francisco Milla were also present at the meeting. 

After the meeting, Cimatu announced that the STP construction is exempted from the six-month moratorium on building constructions earlier imposed by the DENR in Boracay.

“The construction of STP is exempted from the construction moratorium effective May 19, 2018, the date when the agreement was signed,” Cimatu said.

Meanwhile, Cimatu ordered the immediate removal of sewerage pipes discovered along Boracay’s white beach. The wastewater coming from pipes contains high coliform count based on the test conducted by the EMB.

“These pipelines at the beachfront are non-negotiable. They have to be removed. The water that comes out of these is very smelly; you don’t like the smell of it and very unhealthy,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu could not hide his disappointment over the concealment by the establishments of buried pipelines.

“It’s almost a month now, but there’s not much improvement in the water quality. Very erratic ang results ng water sampling. Ngayon, mababa [ang coliform count].  The next day, mataas na naman. This is because there are pipelines buried under the sand, at the beachfront.  ‘Pag low tide, the wastewater goes into the sea, contaminates the waters.  It’s very unhealthy,” he lamented.

Earlier, Cimatu told reporters that around 33  “possible buried illegal pipes” were detected by a technical team from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau using a ground penetrating radar (GPR) along the beach front.  Of these, three sites, including an old drainage from an old creek and a septic tank, have already been excavated and found to be leading to the shoreline. 

“This septic tank should have not been here in the first place,” he said. 

Accordingly, the said drainage was already condemned but was found to have leaks, which when tested, the water contains a high concentration of coliform at 10,000 MPN/100ML.  

A nearby orange pipeline was also uncovered, with the use of GPR, despite being covered with sandbags. The water sample collected from it registered a coliform count of 74,000 MPN/100ML, non-compliant to DENR water quality standard of 400MPN/100ML. ###

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