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Despite polluted waters, Boracay establishments to remain open

/ 05:14 AM May 06, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–Despite the appearance of green and slimy algae along Boracay’s shoreline, there will be no immediate closure of establishments that have been dumping sewage directly into the resort island’s waters.

Boracay, the country’s top tourist draw as one of the world’s best beaches, has been plagued with pollution problems due to the failure of authorities to enforce sewerage system requirements on all commercial establishments.

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the excessive algae growth, caused by sewage being directly dumped into the waters, began to appear in February.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, however, admitted on Monday that their teams had yet to inspect and issue notices to polluting establishments to connect to the island’s sewer lines.

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He said the DENR needed two weeks to conduct an inventory of resorts and other commercial establishments that did not have environmental permits and violated water sanitation laws.

“We expect the inventory to be finished in a couple of weeks, and after that violation notices will be sent out to give erring establishments a chance to address their violations,” Paje said.

Establishments that do not have their own sewage treatment plants will be required to connect to the island’s sewer lines, he said.

“We will issue orders of cessation of operation if they don’t comply with our requirements,” he added.

At the same time, Paje appealed to the local government of Malay, Aklan, not to issue business permits to establishments that do not have a discharge permit or connection to the sewerage system.

‘Safe for swimming’

While the DENR Western Visayas office insisted that the waters remained safe for swimming, Paje admitted that algae growth in an area indicated water pollution caused by sewage being directly dumped into the waters.

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He further admitted that the appearance of green algae in Boracay had become a natural occurrence during the “summer” months, the peak season for tourists.

Paje cited a study by conservation group Global Coral Reef Alliance that attributed the seasonal appearance of algae in Boracay’s waters to uncontrolled population growth in the interior of the island whose sewage is not connected to the main sewage system.

The study said algae appeared during the calm season when there were no typhoons. They are washed away by waves during the rough or rainy season.

The DENR said the Environmental Management Bureau in Western Visayas reported in February that coliform bacteria levels in a water sample taken from a drainage outlet that emptied into the sea in Sitio (settlement) Bulabog in Boracay exceeded safe standards.

The coliform bacteria levels reached 47,460 MPN (most probable number) per 100 milimeter (ml). The safe level for waters for swimming and other human contact activities is 1,000 mpn/100ml.

Apart from the serious health and sanitary hazards, coliform bacteria found in human and animal waste could also adversely affect marine life and coral reefs.

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TAGS: algae, Beaches, Boracay, coliform bacteria, Environmental Issues, Health, Pollution, Ramon Paje
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