The Department of Environment and Natural Resources MIMAROPA has issued Cease and Desist Orders (CDOs) against business establishments in Palawan found polluting Bacuit Bay in El Nido and Coron Bay in Coron, two of the country’s prime tourist destinations undergoing massive rehabilitation.

Ordered to stop from undertaking any activity and/or from operating machines and equipment that cause pollution were View Deck Cottages, Lagun Hotel, Spin Designer Hotel, La Casa Teresa Tourist Inn, Inc., and Mansion Buenavista Guest House, all located in El Nido.

The establishments were found to be discharging wastewater that exceeds the allowable DENR effluent standards, a violation of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

The wastewater drains to Bacuit Bay through Masagana, Buena Suerte, Maligaya and Corong-corong outfalls which have recorded high fecal coliform counts.

On August 1, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat announced that El Nido shall remain open during its rehabilitation but swimming will not be allowed in selected areas in Bacuit Bay particularly those near the two outfalls.

The identified beach areas have been cordoned off and signages installed to remind the public of the “no swimming policy.”

In Coron, the DENR MIMAROPA also served a CDO against Busuanga Sea Dive Resort, Corto Del Mar, Coron Gateway Hotel, Sophia’s Garden Resort, and Pearl Vista De Coron Resort for releasing wastewater into Coron Bay that resulted to high coliform counts in portions of the bay.

Coron and Bacuit Bays are classified as Class SB waters suitable for ecotourism and recreational activities such as bathing, swimming and skin diving. However, the encroachment of easement zones and waterways by commercial establishments and households have led to the poor water quality of the bays and prevented their beneficial use.

“Makikita po natin na kagagawan din ng tao kung bakit marumi ang ating mga katubigan at hindi natin ito napapakinabangan ng husto,” said DENR MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado.

“Kung tao ang dahilan, tao rin ang makakagawa ng paraan para malinis ang ating karagatan. At gagawin natin ‘yan sa pagpapatupad ng batas sa sinuman napatunayang lumapastangan sa ating kapaligiran, tulad nga ng paghahain nitong mga CDO,” Adornado added.

In 2016, Coron Bay was designated as a Water Quality Management Area (WQMA), an integrated water quality management system designed to protect and save bodies of water through the collaborative efforts of the government and various stakeholders.

Bacuit Bay is in the process of being declared a WQMA. The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) MIMAROPA has conducted meetings to orient stakeholders on the stages of establishing a WQMA and the present water quality of Bacuit Bay.

“We have to start at educating our stakeholders on their duties in protecting the environment, and the accompanying sanctions should they fail to fulfill such,” said EMB MIMAROPA Regional Director Michael Drake Matias.

“We hope that the public, especially the business sector, would understand that what we are doing, the stakeholders forum as well as the issuance of the CDO against erring establishments, form part of our shared responsibility to protect nature and preserve it for future generations,” he concluded.

The CDO was served by a team from EMB MIMAROPA, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office of Palawan, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Taytay, CENRO Coron, and the El Nido Protected Area Management Office with the Municipal Governments of El Nido and Coron.

A public notice on the nature of the violation was posted in the premises of the erring establishments and their water lines and facilities sealed to prevent wastewater discharge. (With reports and photos from EMB MIMAROPA and El Nido PAO) ###