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Gov’t-built sewerage system near Boracay shoreline disturbs Cimatu

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu inspects a outflow of a septic tank buried under the beach of Boracay Island (Photo by Nestor P. Burgos Jr./INQUIRER VISAYAS)

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan — Even while commercial establishments were being directed to demolish structures encroaching on the 30-meter beach setback on Boracay Island, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu was surprised to find a government-built sewerage system much closer to the shoreline.

“This is very disturbing because this is our main beach. I’m very worried because this is closer to the shoreline than the buildings,” Cimatu told reporters after he inspected the sewerage pipeline Saturday morning.

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The sewerage pipe stretches parallel to beach for at least four kilometers from Angol Road in Barangay Manoc-Manoc at the southern end of the island to Station 1 in Barangay Balabag at the northern end.

The sewerage pipe installed by the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) has at least 70 manholes along the beach. The PTA (now Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority), is an agency of the Department of Tourism.

According to Cimatu, overflows from the drainage pipe through the manhole contaminate the waters and contributes to the proliferation of algal bloom.

While many residents argue that the algal bloom is a natural phenomenon that has existed even before tourists began flocking to the island, scientists say that excessive algal bloom is an indication of water pollution.

A test conducted at an excavated water outflow of a septic tank buried under the sand showed coliform bacterial level reaching 74,000 most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters (ml), which was way above the acceptable concentration values of 100 MPN/100 ml for areas categorized for swimming and the 200 MPN/100 ml for areas categorized for non-contact activities like docking and boating.

The coliform bacterial level in a manhole inspected by Cimatu registered 10,000 MPN/100 ml.

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Cimatu said he would push for the condemnation of the sewerage pipeline or its transfer at an area further from the beach.

He said he would recommend that sewerage lines should be at least 50 meters from the beach in all tourist destinations.

Cimatu will meet with officials of Tieza and the Boracay Island Water Company Inc. on Monday to discuss these plans.

BIWC operates the sewerage system on the island. It set up in April 2, 2009 in a 25-year joint venture agreement between Ayala-subsidiary Manila Water and the then PTA.

“We will attempt if we can do it in five months. It’s fortunate that we discovered this before the reopening [of Boracay Island to tourists in October]. We still have time,” he said.

Cimatu signed an agreement with business groups Boracay Foundation Inc., Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay, and Filipino-Chinese Chamber Federation-Iloilo to enforce the strict implementation of a municipal ordinance requiring establishments with 50 rooms and above to install their own sewerage treat plant (STP).

Establishments with less than 50 rooms must also have STPs or a cluster STP used by several establishments. /atm

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TAGS: Boracay, coliform bacterial level, Department of Tourism, Philippine Tourism Authority, Roy Cimatu, sewerage system, shoreline, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority
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