Siargao resorts face shutdown

DAPA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 22 Feb) – Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol F. Matugas wants to shut down operations of 99 resorts in Siargao, particularly in General Luna, which do not have Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

Siargao resorts, like those in Boracay, are facing shutdown over environmental issues. MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

According to the governor, General Luna alone has a total of 124 resorts, of which only 25 have secured ECCs from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

But she allayed fears that Siargao would become the next Boracay. President Rodrigo Duterte threatened earlier this month that he would shut down Boracay as it has become a “cesspool” as its sewerage problem is wreaking havoc on the island.

“I am a Siargaonon and I was born and raised in General Luna. I will not allow this problem on the environment to exist in my hometown,” Matugas said during a meeting with tourism stakeholders held in Kapitolyo Nan Siargao in Dapa last Tuesday afternoon.

She said she wants to conserve the island, whose landscape and seascape have been declared as protected areas.

It was learned that most of the resorts have built improper septic tanks.

“Most septic tanks on the island have a bottomless design, which allows wastewater to quickly seep through the ground. This poses higher risk of contamination in fresh and sea water,” according to Dr. Merlinda Placencia, who introduced eco-septic system in Siargao.

Wilson L. Trajico, regional director of EMB-Caraga, said he advised resorts that do not have ECCs to secure one or suffer the same fate as the resorts in Boracay.

“We will check every resort and validate them,” he said.

Engr. Michael Tuapes, clearance and permitting officer 2 of EMB-Caraga, told MindaNews that only resorts with floor area of at least 1,000 square meters are required to obtain ECC. But he added that smaller resorts should still secure a certificate of non-coverage.

But Abe Tolentino, president of Siargao Tourism Operators Association composed of at least 80 resorts, said shutting down the resorts is not the solution to the environmental issues. He suggested instead that they be given a grace period to correct the wrong.

“We appeal to the government leaders here to work hand in hand to help conserve the island,” he said.

Tolentino said acknowledged that the main problem now is garbage.

Local surfers are worried over the planned closure of the resorts because they will be the ones to be affected.

“If resorts will be shut down, no one would come and we cannot feed out family,” said Prudencio Meras III, whose only job is teaching surfing lessons to tourists.

General Luna Mayor Jaime P. Rusillon strongly opposed the governor’s proposal, adding that there seems to be no problem with the resorts so far. But he agreed that mitigation measures should be put in place to protect the environment. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)