Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered the municipal government of El Nido to immediately rehabilitate the environmental condition of the resort town.
“You told us last time that it will take you six months to rehabilitate. We will give you six months to rehabilitate El Nido,” Cimatu told town Mayor Nieves Rosento while doing site inspection in Barangay Masagana.
The environment chief stressed that “there will be no closure” of the whole town, but Barangay Buena Suerte, one of the four barangays covering Bacuit Bay, will be restricted to swimming due to high fecal coliform bacteria at 1,300 parts per million (ppm).
“Kapag nag-100 ppm lang saka bubuksan for swimming ulit. Lalagyan ng marker dyan na off limits (If it goes down to 100 ppm, then we will open again for swimming. We will put a market there that says off limits),” the environment head said.
Rosento said the Buena Suerte coastal village is where the town’s main sewer empties into the sea.
But in six months, she said it will be the site of their second sewage treatment plant (STP) that will remove contaminants from municipal wastewater.
“Our main outfall is there but it will also be the site of our sewage treatment facility. We hope to complete construction in six months. Hopefully, there will be no weather disturbance so we can meet our target,” Rosento said.
The proposed STP is in addition to the existing wastewater facility the town already has in Barangay Villa Libertad, the El Nido mayor pointed out.
During the site inspection with Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Eduardo Año and other national and local government officials, Cimatu also hinted at the possibility of imposing an additional 20-meter setback to the three-meter easement zone.
He said the idea is similar to what was done in Boracay to clean up the beach and widen the area where tourists could enjoy.
“We may impose an additional 20-meter setback to the three-meter easement zone.”
“What if we push the [easement zone] 20 meters more… because how can people enjoy the beach with just three meters easement? This is intended for swimming,” Cimatu added.
Puyat agreed noting that tourist influx might even increase because of the clean beach and the water in Bacuit Bay.
“Baka mas marami pang pumunta dito sa El Nido kapag nakitang malinis na ang beach area at malapad (Maybe more tourists will come to El Nido if they see that the beach is already clean and wide enough for them),” she said.
Rosento explained the three-meter easement is what the law requires in highly-urbanized areas.
She said they are hoping that the 20-meter additional setback will not be imposed as it will surely affect a lot of business in their town.
“We’re hoping that it won’t go to that because it will be a long process. Some of the properties here are titled. Besides, the case here is not really like Boracay,” Rosento said.
Meanwhile Cimatu ordered no boat anchoring in coral areas, and no more constructions of buildings or any other structure near the easement zone limit.
“No boat anchoring in coral areas, and no more constructions of buildings or any other structure near the easement zone limit.”
For his part, Año commended the municipal government for moving in advance to clean-up the easement unlike Boracay.
“We would like to commend the local government for doing the clean up in advance unlike Boracay where it was like stalemate,” he said.