DENR targets full El Nido cleanup by end-2018

Keith Anthony Fabro
Environment officials say erring business owners have been given enough time to comply with environmental rules and regulations

EL NIDO COASTLINE. A view of the El Nido coastline years before the DENR clean-up. Photo from Philippine Fly Boy/Wikimedia Commons

PALAWAN, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is targeting the complete removal of business establishments encroaching on easement zones and forestlands in El Nido by the end of 2018.

DENR Mimaropa Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado said this is in support of President Rodrigo Duterte call to protect Palawan’s tourist spots to keep them from becoming another Boracay, or a tourist destination that had to be shut down for 6 months because of environmental problems.

“We are eyeing to clear errant establishments off Bacuit Bay, hopefully by the end of the year,” Adornado said in a statement on Tuesday, November 13, in response to Duterte’s pronouncement at a Puerto Princesa festival over the weekend.

After Duterte announced the 6-month closure of  Boracay in February, DENR Mimaropa formed Task Force El Nido that sam month and issued 407 eviction notices to structures built on declared easement zones and forestlands.

With the help of the municipal government, establishments that failed to comply within the prescribed period were demolished, and affected residents were relocated and given financial assistance.

“There were times demolition activities were put on hold due to high tide or because dump trucks and heavy equipment units used to knock down structures were used for more urgent reasons, like the cleanup of typhoon debris,” Adornado said.

He also said that 253 out of 289 establishments were found violating environmental rules and regulations that require them to secure discharge permit, permit to operate and hazardous waste generator’s identification, and to designate a pollution control officer.

One of these establishments was issued with atemporary stoppage order after it was found to have pipes that directly discharge wastewater into the bay.  Adornado said the business owner had since installed a wastewater treatment facility. 

He said erring establishment owners had been given chances to comply through technical conferences facilitated by the regional Environmental Management Bureau.

“They are also strictly monitored if they have corrected their violations and met the conditions set provided by the laws,” he added.

“While improvements as a result of clean-up drive can now be seen and felt in El Nido there is still much to be done in the town,” Adornado said, addiing that they will not “lower their guard against environmental offenders.” 

“Yes, we are not near the finish line but what is important is that we keep an eye even on possible violators to ensure the protection of the environment and conservation of the rich biodiversity of El Nido,” he said.

DENR Mimaropa also created similar task forces in Coron and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro that have undertaken the same actions to maintain the integrity of the environment in those areas.

“The task forces are likewise helping the local government unit and concerned agencies in the preparation of an identified sanitary landfill area in Coron; and in the construction of a sewerage collection system and central wastewater treatment facility in Puerto Galera,” Adornado said.

The DENR regional office recently formed a task force to watch over Port Barton in San Vicente, a small Palawan coastal village that is slowly attracting more and more tourists because of its pristine surrounding islands. – Rappler.com