Coliform teems in Coron
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY— The waters of Coron Bay, a major tourist destination in Palawan province, is literally teeming with feces, the human kind, according to results of tests made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In a report on its test results, the DENR said the level of water pollution in the bay had exceeded the safe limit.
A summary of the report, furnished the Inquirer, showed consistently high levels of fecal and other forms of coliform around the bay.
The DENR attributed this to unregulated discharge of household and commercial wastes directly into the bay.
Over the limit
In one test site, the highly populated village of Barangay 5 in Coron town, test results showed a coliform level of 25,269 most probable number (mpn), way past the 1,000 mpn per 100 milliliter, which the DENR considered to be safe.
The report also said tests made on water samples from the bay showed a consistent failure to meet safe coliform levels since 2011.
“Coron has no centralized sewage treatment facility,” said Natividad Bernardino, DENR director for the region of Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan).
“What makes the situation worse is there is no regular desludging of septic tanks,” Bernardino said. Desludging is emptying the septic tank.
She added that while a few major establishments had waste treatment facilities, they were severely outnumbered by residences and other structures that did not properly empty their septic tanks.
“Many establishments are right above the water, including dive shops, restaurants and lodging facilities,” Bernardino said.
The DENR said it was completing an investigation that started last week to determine compliance with environmental laws and in the wake of the department’s bid to clean up the country’s main tourist sites.
In a statement released on Thursday, the DENR also said its main challenge in Coron was how to relocate at least 1,000 families that had illegally built homes inside the easement zone of 3 meters from the town’s breakwater.
“The illegal structures in Coron Bay have to be removed,” the statement said. These included those built by business establishments “either on the water or encroaching on easement zones and mangroves,” the DENR statement added.
Bernardino said DENR officials had met with Coron’s business owners and local officials early this week to convince them to agree that there was a need to rehabilitate Coron Bay and enforce environmental laws.
“We need to decongest Coron Bay and ensure compliance with environmental regulations,” said Bernardino.
She said the provincial government of Palawan and the local government of Coron should provide a resettlement site for the informal settlers who had been declared as beneficiaries of a relocation program for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).
Representatives of the local government of Coron, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard all expressed full support for the DENR cleanup campaign.
Maria Luisa Diploma, DOT Mimaropa regional director, said the department would require all tourist establishments to have wastewater discharge facilities first before they could get DOT accreditation.
Coron Mayor Ajerico Barracoso told the DENR during the meeting that the local government unit had already formulated a feasibility study for a P400-million centralized sewage treatment plant and was seeking funding support.
Provincial tourism data showed that Coron had attracted over 175,000 tourists last year, making it among the three top tourist draws in Palawan along with the Underground River in Puerto Princesa City and El Nido in the province’s northern tip.
Coron’s main attractions included Coron Island which boasts of lakes and white sand beach coves, World War II shipwrecks around Coron Bay for dive enthusiasts and a safari destination in Busuanga town.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.