DAVAO CITY – The government has made “good strides” in addressing water pollution on Boracay Island in the past two months, according to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
There was “marked improvement of the main culprit which is the sewage system and the drainage.” Cimatu said in a speech he delivered on Friday during the 9th Philippine League of Local Environment and Natural Resources Officers (PLLENRO) convention here.
“The quality of water there has improved a lot. It [volume of pollutants] is now 2,400 units,” Cimatu said, adding that the standard is 400.
“The passing for water quality so it can be used for swimming is 400,” he said.
A day before, Cimatu said the volume of pollutants slightly went up and they were tracing the source.
“We are tracing it because some pipes might have been hidden underground. You know some establishments did their own sewage systems and they connect it everywhere. This is the culprit,” he added.
Cimatu said unless the quality of water in Boracay had been put back to the standard he could not say that the government’s work there would be finished.
Aside from Boracay, Cimatu said there were also other areas where pollution remained a problem and that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was doing everything it can to address it.
“The DENR cannot be everywhere, at all times,” he said. “That is why certain functions were devolved to the local government units by the Congress through the local government code. Under the general welfare clause of [the Local Government Code], every LGU shall enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology.”
Cimatu said that, under the code, LGUs would also be responsible for “solid waste management system and services or facilities related to general hygiene and sanitation, and tourism facilities and regulation and supervision of business concessions.”
“Ideally, the DENR should step in only when and where necessary, if the LGU concerned lacks the resources or the know how to perform these devolved functions, or, as in the case of Boracay, when the President orders the DENR to do so,” he added.
Cimatu said the Boracay experience would not end if LGUs do not help in maintaining a sustainable tourism industry.
“Unfortunately, with the rise in tourist traffic and tourism revenues, the coliform count in Boracay’s waters has also risen, along with other indicators of environmental degradation,” he said. “This is unsustainable this will kill both tourism and the island’s environment. This threat is also hovering over other ecotourism hotspots, like Panglao Island in Bohol, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro, and El Nido and Coron, Palawan.”
Cimatu said local environment officers should “be the first to enforce compliance with environmental laws, rules, regulations and ordinances.”