Gov’t to require water treatment facilities in resorts

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 Feb) – President Rodrigo R. Duterte will issue a directive requiring all resort owners to build water treatment facilities to prevent polluting coastal areas like what happened in the world-renowned Boracay Island.

In a press conference at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao on Friday, Tourism secretary Wanda Teo said the measure aims to prevent pollution in the country’s emerging tourist destinations with the influx of tourists.

The President recently ordered the closure of some establishments that have no proper sewerage systems, resulting in the reported contamination of the sea around Boracay.

These motorized bancas, seen sitting idly by the beach last Tuesday (9 January 2018), are the main mode of transportation of tourists coming to the beautiful white sandy beach of Daku Island in General Luna, Siargao Island. The island was energized by the National Electricification Administration only late last December. MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

Teo said they are closely monitoring the development of tourism, including the sprouting businesses in Siargao, Cebu, Bohol, and Coron in Palawan, and that requiring them to establish their own water treatment facilities would mitigate marine pollution.

She said they could offer tourists those sites as alternatives to Boracay until it recovers from pollution, and vowed to continue to market primary destinations and emerging ones to ensure inclusive growth.

She added the closure of some establishments was needed to save and preserve the island for the succeeding generations and that now is the time to do it.

“The massive cleanup of Boracay is a bitter pill that we have to swallow if we were to collectively save and sustain Boracay,” she said.

Teo said at least 57 of the 300 initially identified establishments have been issued notices of violations.

The secretary said the island has 500 establishments most of which lack water treatment facilities. Some of them connect to the drainage system of Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which was intended for the rainwater to address the flooding on the island.

She said TIEZA’s drainage system brings rainwater out to the sea but it does filter out the wastes.

The only facility that is capable of treating wastes in the water is the Boracay Water Sewage System but only a few establishments had been connected to it.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has given non-compliant establishments two months to connect to the Boracay Water Sewage System, Teo said.

She noted that tourist arrivals in Boracay have not been affected since the President issued the stern warning against erring establishments.

She said they fully support the directive of the President for the six-month deadline to clean up the island and fix the problems, including water and solid waste disposal.

Teo said she is set to visit Boracay with Cimatu and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on February 21 to monitor the progress of fixing the island.

She added she has ordered TIEZA to oversee the completion of its P716-million drainage project to address the flooding on the island and hopes for the full cooperation of all business establishments and residents, so that Boracay would remain as a major employer and source of income.

“We hope that efforts for Boracay cleanup will resonate to our private stakeholders in other destinations to ensure full compliance of environment and eco-tourism laws. From a tourism perspective, we should preserve the balance – let us not compromise the environment for economic gains,” she said.

Tourism Undersecretary Katherine De Castro said the President’s decision to close down non-compliant establishments did not sit well with some business owners but locals are said to have rallied behind the government’s bold move to implement a six-month closure.

“Sila yung nagsasabi sa amin (They are the ones who tell us) that they are supporting our initiatives in making sure that Boracay come back to its pristine situation before,” she said.

She said many private establishments are trying to fix the sewage and water treatment facilities.

She said the government would focus its efforts on the Bolabog Beach, at the rear portion of Boracay where the sea is already brownish. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)