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Boracay coliform level prompts DENR warning

/ 12:26 AM February 20, 2015

ILOILO CITY—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) warned commercial establishments in Boracay against discharging waste directly to the sea after a study made by a DENR office had found high levels of coliform bacteria, from human wastes, in the waters of the world-renowned resort island.

Offenders would be charged with violating the Clean Water Act, said Jonathan Bulos, Western Visayas director of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

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Bulos said EMB is closely coordinating with the multi-agency Boracay Redevelopment Task Force (BRTF) to monitor and apprehend violators.

But he said the agency’s mandate covers only commercial establishments. The local government has jurisdiction over residences.

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The DENR-EMB Western Visayas office last week reported that coliform bacteria levels in a drainage outlet that empties into the sea in Sitio Bulabog in Boracay exceed safe standards and reach 47,460 most probable number (mpn) per 100 milimeter (ml).

The safe level is 1,000 mpn/ml for waters for swimming.

In its report, the DENR-EMB attributed the high level of coliform to “domestic waste coming from residential and commercial establishments that failed to connect to sewer lines which go directly to drainage canal and empty into the coastal water.”

The agency said this was also due to “contaminated surface runoff” that makes its way to the coastal water.

Bulos said some commercial establishments and residences are still not connected to or beyond the reach of sewerage lines being operated by Boracay Island Water Company (BIWC).

BIWC is a joint venture of Manila Water and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) under a 25-year deal that took effect in 2009.

The DENR-EMB had recommended the completion of the drainage system and putting the drainage outlet farther out into the sea.

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It also asked the local government to strictly apply the “no discharge permit, no business permit” policy on commercial establishments to compel connection with the BIWC’s sewerage system.

The local government has identified the suspected violators and individually inspecting the commercial establishments and houses, said Mabel Bacani, head of the BRTF secretariat, in an earlier interview.

Tieza seeks to complete and start operating the two-phase drainage project, worth about P270 million, within the year.

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