DENR removes illegal sewage line in El Nido, Palawan; prepares charges against owners

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Photos courtesy of DENR Mimaropa
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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – MIMAROPA Region on Saturday excavated from the beachfront of a hotel establishment in El Nido, Palawan, a PVC pipeline illegally installed within the town’s declared easement zone.

Detected through the ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey conducted by the Central and MIMAROPA Regional offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the pipeline measuring six inches in diameter and six meters in length was uncovered in front of Outpost Beach Hostel in Brgy. Corong-corong. It was also found discharging black and foul-smelling liquid directly into Bacuit Bay, one of the province’s ecotourism sites undergoing massive rehabilitation.

To confirm the source of the wastewater, the regional Environmental Management Bureau used a green tracer solution into Outpost Beach Hostel’s last chamber to which the excavated pipe was connected. After almost 20 minutes, the green solution drained into the said pipe, indicating that the said establishment was the one discharging wastewater from the tank. The EMB shall be conducting further investigation to determine if there are other sources of wastewater discharge aside from the hostel.

Paul Sepulveda, one of the co-owners of Outpost Beach Hostel in Brgy. Corong-corong, admitted that they owned the pipe.

Nevertheless, DENR MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado ordered immediate removal of the sewage line as it violates provisions of PD 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines, which prohibits any structures within the easement zones without permission from the government.

“The law is clear, and so was our appeal to everybody to cooperate with us in rehabilitating El Nido. We will continue to implement measures to find out if there are others who are doing the same and continuously disregarding our call to follow the rule of law. We will hold them responsible,” RED Adornado remarked.

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The management of Outpost Beach Hostel volunteered to cut the sewage line but contested they were able to secure a discharge permit and the effluent samples taken from their sewage treatment facility passed the water quality guidelines of the DENR.

It can be recalled that the establishment was issued a Notice of Violation by the EMB for releasing wastewater exceeding the standards. Sepulveda said they are currently complying their commitments with the EMB.

Last year, the DENR created Task Force El Nido to spearhead the restoration of the famous island paradise found beset by environmental problems, such as encroachment of easement zones and high coliform levels in Bacuit Bay. The DENR, together with the local government unit of El Nido, has organized several stakeholders meetings to inform and engage both the residents and business establishments owners in restoring the beauty and cleanliness of the famous beach destination. Under the directive of Secretary Roy Cimatu, the DENR has also also pronounced to be more aggressive in enforcing the laws against anyone who would violate the environment.

“The Outpost Beach Hostel’s continuous use of hidden sewage lines despite our warnings is a clear violation of the law and a blatant disregard for the environment that provides them livelihood. They are also putting the lives of tourists and residents in danger as they continue to pollute Bacuit Bay,” the director noted.

“We have no choice but to perform necessary actions to prevent them from further degrading nature,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the excavation site was filled with sand using the backhoe sent by the local government of El Nido. The end of the cut pipe was left open for sampling and analysis by the EMB.

“We have to remind everyone that we are preparing Bacuit Bay as Water Quality Management Area so we shall be conducting regular water sampling and analysis not only to Outpost Beach Hostel but also to other establishments to ensure they do not discharge untreated wastewater into Bacuit Bay,” EMB Regional Director Michael Drake Matias said.

Besides regular effluent sampling, the DENR and the MGB have been conducting GPR survey of the coastal areas of El Nido since March 18 to detect buried waste pipelines. They are calling business establishments to take Outpost Beach Hostel as an example to avoid interruption in their business operations.

“You cannot hide them (pipes) forever. We will eventually uncover them so we advise you to remove your illegal sewage lines and comply with the laws for your own good,” MGB MIMAROPA Regional Director Roland De Jesus stated.

The DENR, EMB and MGB in MIMAROPA vowed to impose maximum penalty to any establishments found continuously breaking environmental rules and regulations; and employ unified action to ensure environment protection remains as top priority.

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