By Minerva BC Newman and Dandan A. Bantugan
Cebu City — Learning from the Boracay experience, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas is preparing to go after erring resorts and hotels in the region’s tourist destinations.
“Next to Boracay, Panglao Island in Bohol is another paradise we need to protect,” said DENR Regional Director Gilbert Gonzales in a media interview after the opening of the 2nd PH Environment Summit Wednesday in Cebu City.
Gonzales told Manila Bulletin DENR has formed a regional investigation team to inspect tourism-related establishments in Panglao and strictly enforce all environmental laws.
He said the team will check sewage and wastewater facilities, including the garbage disposal system, of each establishment in the island especially those with beachfronts. It will strictly monitor compliance to the Clean Water Act, Solid Waste Management Act and other environmental laws.
DENR will also look at the land classification of these areas to make sure that forestlands have not been built on by local and foreign businesses, Gonzales added.
The crackdown on environmental violators in Panglao was ordered by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu during his visit to Cebu Tuesday for the 2nd Philippine Environment Summit.
Cimatu said what happened to Boracay is a wake-up call for the protection of the country’s other popular tourist spots.
Gonzales said that under the Clean Water Act, anything that goes out to the sea should be treated first and should pass DENR’s water quality assessments.
“We have to strictly look into these and monitor the water quality of the receiving coastal waters along the bay,” he said.
As soon as DENR has the list of establishments found to be illegally disposing of garbage and untreated water. The next move is to issue violation notices warning establishment operators and owners they should fix the problems.
“When we are not convinced on the actions taken by the operators/owners we will issue a cease and desist order to operate,” Gonzales said.
The team is composed of technical personnel from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and provincial environment and natural resources office in Bohol.
Dauis, a neighboring town of Panglao, is taking steps to avoid the same environmental problems.
Mayor Miriam Sumaylo said Wednesday the municipality is monitoring the cleanliness of its waters amid the reported coliform contamination in Panglao.
The town government is already working with resorts and hotel owners to ensure that environmental policies, particularly the setting up of a wastewater treatment facility, are enforced, Sumaylo said.
Three of the town’s 16 hotels and resorts have no sewage treatment facilities.
The resort operators have been warned to comply with the policy or face a shutdown of their businesses, she added.
The town is also planning to participate in the clean-up drive of Panglao Island’s coastline on March 6.
Last month, Panglao made national headlines after its waters, particularly in the Alona area, were found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria.
Tags: Boracay, Central Visayas, Clean Water Act, Crackdown on environment violators in Central Visayas, DENR, environmental laws, Environmental Management Bureau, environmental problems, establishments, garbage disposal system, Gilbert Gonzales, Panglao Island