The Department of Environment and Natural Resources seems to be on a roll, now setting its sights on the resorts on Panglao Island and offering to help build sewerage facilities so that this “tourism jewel” of Bohol would avoid the problems now besetting world-famous Boracay.
Up to 90 percent of the resorts on Panglao have no wastewater facilities, and up to “70 percent are not compliant with septic tank regulations,” said Panglao Councilor Rogelyn Clemeña-Degoma. For example, on popular Alona Beach, some resorts empty their sewage into holes in the ground and out into that beautiful blue sea. To combat this, Degoma said, the local government must implement the “no discharge permit, no business permit” policy, and conduct a strict inspection of each establishment’s sewerage treatment plant.
The problem is nothing to sneeze at. According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, a son of Bohol, environmental problems are now plaguing Panglao because of the same unregulated development plaguing Boracay. There does appear to be a regulatory problem: Of at least
200 business establishments on Panglao, only 33 have permits issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). Add to that, Pernia has been quoted as saying, lax enforcement of laws,
and surging tourism.
In January, the EMB reported that the levels of fecal coliform on Alona Beach have exceeded DENR standards for recreational water.
To get a glimpse of Panglao’s future, check out Boracay’s morphing from top island destination in the world (per the estimation of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure) to cesspool (per President Duterte).
As tourists from all over the planet descended on the Aklan paradise, resorts and hotels of all shapes and sizes popped up. But there was no way the 1,032-hectare island could support the over 2 million visitors who visited it in 2017.
As early as 1997, there was a noted increase in coliform bacteria in Boracay’s waters due to inadequate septic and sewerage systems, leading the local government to install a potable water supply system, a sewage treatment plant, and a solid waste disposal system. Yet the coliform problem remained unsolved because many businesses did not obtain an environmental compliance certificate from authorities. Sewage continued to escape into the once-pristine waters, leading to increased algae growth.
In 2007, the DENR drafted a 25-year plan for development on Boracay that would sustain its projected growth. “If the degradation of the total environment will be left unaddressed, the situation will only get worse unless action is taken promptly to reverse it,” the report said. “Denial, concealment or cosmetic dressing of the problems will only delay, or, even worse, completely prevent action that could dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone on the island.”
The coliform problem besetting Boracay and now Panglao can be traced to inadequate sewage systems. There is actually a 50-percent grant under the National Sewerage and Septage Management Program that cities and first-class municipalities can use to fund the installation of sewage systems. But apparently no one applies for the grant, and most tourism spots are not in cities or first-class municipalities.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has offered local governments his agency’s assistance in building their own sewerage facilities “We must keep in mind that we are doing this for the environment, and for the benefit of the people,” he said.
With the public being kept informed of these island issues, it is incumbent on the national and
local governments to strictly implement the laws meant to preserve these natural wonders to the fullest, putting aside the glint of monetary gain for the good of future Filipinos. Indeed, what good will amount from all that commerce if precisely the drawing power of these islands—all that blinding white sand and sparkling blue water—goes to waste?
Remember that once upon a time Boracay and Panglao were idylls. But look at them now, and the horrors that unregulated development has brought. Rather like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
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