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Big Boracay resorts face closure over sewage mess

In Photo: President Duterte is expected to issue soon a new executive order that would govern the development of Boracay Island, addressing issues on overbuilding of commercial establishments, inadequate infrastructure and illegal logging. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay has been pushing for a tourism authority to be created to oversee the island.

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be validating a list of resorts that are not connected to the existing sewer system on Boracay Island, to check where exactly they are dumping their sewage.

In a hearing on Wednesday by the House Committee on Tourism, chaired by Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez of the Fourth District of Leyte, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu warned those establishments on the list that if they have been found to have violated any environmental laws, “I’m sorry, but you have to go.”

Among those on the list, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, are major hotels and resorts, such as Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa, Movenpick Resort and Spa, Crown Regency Resort, Asya Premier Suites, Nami Private Villas, Alta Vista de Boracay and the controversial Boracay West Cove Resort, to name a few. Boracay West Cove, earlier rumored to be owned by Sen. Manny D. Pacquiao, had been outed by a broadcaster a few years back, for building on corals.

The list was drawn up by Boracay Island Water Corp. (BIWC), a joint venture of the  Ayala Corp. and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), which provides water and sewerage services on the island. It was submitted by the Department of Tourism to Gomez, who conducted the hearing to find out the problems plaguing the island, world famous for its long, white beach.

In an interview, BIWC Business Operations Head Bianca Eunicia Aldaba explained that many of those on the list, which include resorts, restaurants and commercial establishments, “are not connected to the sewer line, because they are located in an area still not serviced” by the company. Some of these, she noted, may have their own septic tanks, or sewage-treatment plants. BIWC also provides some of these establishments with
desludging services. Aldaba, however, underscored the need for the DENR to check where exactly these establishments are dumping their sewage, since “they have discharge permits from the DENR.”

Also, the DENR needs to check if the establishment treats its sewage water before this is discharged into the sea. She said that, under existing environmental laws, the kind of water that can only be discharged into the waters surrounding Boracay “should be Class SB. This means the water has been treated properly; it is similar to the water from the swimming pool. When discharged, it will blend in the ocean,” she stressed, but won’t harm the environment. In separate interviews, government sources also disclosed that the local government of Malay and the DENR found 11 establishments illegally discharging their sewage directly into the rainwater-drainage facility that was constructed by the Tieza.

“These 11 violators have been given the opportunity to correct their mistakes or face closure by the DENR,” a source noted. A study funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency found that, for instance, untreated sewage water was being discharged directly into the waters in Barangay Bulabog, often used by visitors for wind and water sports. Meanwhile, BIWC’s Aldaba pointed out that, as of end-2017, there were 1,123 total sewer connections, of which 899 are commercial establishments (resorts, restaurants and small businesses like sari-sari stores) and 224 are residences.

She added the company’s expansion project for the island sewage system will begin this year, and finally cover Barangay Yapak. “By 2022 the service will cover the entire island of Boracay.” She said this includes the sewage-treatment plant with 5 million liters per day treatment capacity. Two of three barangays —Bulabog and Manoc-Manoc—on the island had already benefitted from the expansion project.

 

Image credits: Stella Arnaldo

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