Oil, grease decreasing in Boracay but they exceed standards–DENR
BORACAY ISLAND, Philippines—The quality of Boracay Island’s coastal waters has generally improved in recent years, but an area where drainage is discharged has registered a high level of coliform bacteria contamination, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Western Visayas reported that the island’s coastal waters were generally within standards based on results of tests conducted bimonthly, from January to October last year.
Samples were taken from 15 stations in the bathing area along the island’s white beach, including eight samples taken 100 meters from the shoreline along the western side of the 1,032-hectare island.
Two other samples were taken at the Cagban jetty port and the drainage outfall in Sitio (settlement) Bulabog along the eastern coast of the island.
The samples were tested for dissolved oxygen, acidity, oil and grease, total coliform and fecal coliform, which are basic measures of water quality.
The DENR EMB Western Visayas presented the results of the tests in a meeting with representatives of the local government, business and other private groups and community leaders in Boracay last Friday.
The results showed that the coastal waters were generally within acceptable levels, except for oil and grease, which registered an average of 4.4 milligrams/liter, higher than the standard of 2 mg/L for waters designated for swimming and 3 mg/L for waters designated for nonswimming activities.
Samson Guillergan, chief of the EMB environmental monitoring and enforcement division, said the oil and grease levels were decreasing compared to previous years.
“But they still exceed standards,” he told the Inquirer.
Among the possible causes were discharge from motorboats and ships and oil from households.
The docking of passenger boats has been regulated in the past years with regular trips limited at the Cagban jetty port.
Boats were limited to picking up passengers for boating and water activities along the white beach.
But cargo and passenger ships regularly docked at the Caticlan jetty port in the Aklan mainland across Boracay.
Coliform bacteria concentration was also within normal range except for the samples taken at Tulubhan and Bulabog stations.
The annual total coliform, which included bacteria from fecal matter and decayed plants, reached 1,045 most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters sample from the Tulubhan sampling station and 2,466 MPN/100 ml from the Bulabog sampling station.
These were beyond the 1,000 MPN/100 ml standard for areas for swimming.
Total and fecal coliform levels also exceeded acceptable levels in the sample taken from the the drainage outfall in Sitio Bulabog that reached 47,460 MPN/100 ml and 31,126 MPN/100 ml, respectively.
Guillergan said the sample taken from the drainage outfall was the most concentrated and not representative of the entire area.
But he said it was not advisable to swim near the drainage outfall.
While a sewerage system is being operated by Boracay Island Water Corp., some residents and commercial establishments are believed to be not connected to the sewerage system and are tapping the drainage system to discharge waste.
This explains why there were still discharges from the drainage outfall during the dry or summer season, according to Guillergan.
Bulabog is a popular site for water sports, especially kite- and wind-surfing, with many enthusiasts having settled on the island.
Boracay Windsport Association, which includes hundreds of kite- and wind-surfers and schools, has called on government agencies to act decisively to address the problem.
“Asia’s best spot for kite-boarding and wind-surfing is under threat,” said Nenette Aguirre-Graf, president of the association.
The Aklan municipal government, which has jurisdiction over Boracay Island, has been implementing measures to address the contamination in Bulabog, said Mabel Bacani, executive assistant to Mayor John Yap and head of the secretariat of Boracay Redevelopment Task Force.
Bacani said they had identified and were investigating possible violators.
The local government has also asked contractors of the drainage project being implemented by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) to clean, seal and flush the drainage canal to pinpoint the illegal tapping.
Bacani said they had also proposed to the Tieza to extend and reroute the drainage outfall to about 300 m from the shoreline toward the sea and away from swimming areas.
“We are addressing the problem and the sample results are not representative of the situation the whole year,” she told the Inquirer.
The participants also agreed that sampling should be done monthly and with participation from the local government and the private sector.