By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has urged tourist attractions all over the country, particularly in Palawan, to invest on proper sewerage and septage systems to prevent these destinations from suffering the fate of Boracay Island.
“Let us not wait until it is too late,” DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said.
“We need to put in the investment in the sewage systems of these places now while we still can so that these places can avoid the problems facing Boracay today. It is better to build sewage treatment facilities now than face a catastrophe later,” Cimatu said.
Boracay has been hounded by the problem of businesses and residents discharging waste water, including untreated sewage, into open bodies of water, which eventually reaches the sea.
Wastewater from houses and establishments should be channeled to a sewage treatment plant to be cleaned before being released.
Cimatu explained that under the National Septage and Sewerage Management Plan, cities and first-class municipalities can avail of a 50 percent grant from the national government to help build their sewerage systems.
He urged local government units to take advantage of the government grant immediately.
“The grant is there, but there are no takers because there are no benefits for them,” Cimatu said.
Meanwhile, many tourism hotspots nationwide are neither in cities nor in first class municipalities.
In these cases, Cimatu said DENR is willing to help them in this matter.
“We really need to think of how we can help these local government units build their own septic and sewerage systems, instead of relying on the local water suppliers to do this, which might pass the construction costs on to the people’s water bills,” he said.
Tourist attractions, such as some municipalities along the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape region and several municipalities in Palawan are examples of places that might need help with their sewerage systems.
In the case of Boracay, DENR estimated that around 17.5 million liters of waste water is generated in the island every day.
Of this volume, only about half is treated properly, while the other half is discharged untreated.
About 30 to 40 percent of the untreated waste water comes from private homes, while the rest is said to come from business establishments.
Boracay has two sewage treatment plants, but it is not yet enough to cover the entire island.
Cimatu earlier said that 834 out of some 2,600 businesses in the island have been identified as discharging wastewater without proper treatment.
The DENR mission team has already started its work to rehabilitate Boracay.
The team has been divided into six groups and is surveying different areas of the island, looking for violations such as missing environmental compliance certificates and failure to connect to the sewage treatment plants.
“We are doing a saturation drive of all establishments this week. The aim is to plug the biggest leaks and to find out where the untreated water comes from,” Cimatu said.
Although Boracay is facing the challenge of cleaning up waste water, he noted that the island’s sewerage management could be a model for other tourist hotspots.
The island’s water concessionaire, Boracay Island Water Corporation (BIWC), is a partnership between the Department of Tourism’s Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and Ayala Corporation’s Manila Water Company. BIWC runs the two sewage treatment plants in the island, and are building a third one.
“Boracay is actually ahead of the curve when it comes to sewage treatment, but the challenge now is to ensure that the entire island is connected to it. Hopefully we can do that by 2020 or 2022,” Cimatu said.