‘Bora’ foundation appeals to DENR to reconsider memo on treatment plants

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Boracay Island, Aklan

Originally published on Manila Standard Today (19 July 2018)

The Boracay Foundation appealed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to reconsider its decision in reference to DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2018, 06 dated June 26, 2018, which requires establishments in the long beach area of Boracay to have its own Sewage Treatment Plant.

Signed by BFI president Nenette A. Graf, the letter addressed to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu pointed out that while the BFI categorically supports the rehabilitation of the island, the Foundation finds that the memorandum appears to be contradictory with the prevailing laws on water and wastewater management.

Representing BFI, Graf wrote, “requiring ALL establishments to build their own STPs and treat water at source, when there is a properly functioning centralized sewer network is in contradiction to existing laws.”

It continued, “The BFI and the DENR both share the same hope that the closure will not happen again, it is therefore imperative that regulations such as this memorandum be properly consulted, clearly explained, and fair to all parties concerned.”

The BFI specifically stated that the said memorandum is in direct contradiction with The Philippine Clean Water Act (RA 9275), particularly Section 8; as well as the following laws which have authority over water and wastewater management, including the Provincial Water Utilities Act (PD 198); Presidential EO 53: Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force; and Malay Municipal Ordinance 307.

The DENR memorandum state that it is “requiring all hotels, resorts, and similar establishments in the White/Long Beach Area in Boracay (Station 1 to 3) with fifty (50) rooms and above to have its own STP, those with forty-nine rooms and below to have a clustered STP or they may opt/elect to have its own separate treatment and those hotels, resorts and similar establishments in other areas of Boracay with fifty (50) rooms and above to have a separate STP.”

The letter also explained that pursuant to these rules, establishments on the island, for years have been diligently operating under the premise that they are compliant when it comes to wastewater discharge because they are connected to the sole centralized sewer network. It said that these laws also show that the responsibility to treat wastewater is reliant on both the government and water providers.

“The main question now becomes why is the burden to treat wastewater at source delegated to the private sector, when the applicable laws clearly state that it is the government or the water provider’s responsibility to treat wastewater?” BFI asked.

It continued, “Per the DENR memorandum, the joint wastewater treatment facilities of both water providers are not capable of treating the combined wastewater produced.”

BFI emphasized that they believe the capability of both should not be taken as a whole, as this eliminates the individual responsibility of each of the water provider.

“As presented to the BFI by Boracay Water, the company is capable of treating their own water supplies. Logically, they are not capable of treating that of Boracay Tubi customers, especially unknowing how much water is supplied by Boracay Tubi. Based on reports provided to the BFI, Boracay Water is currently expediting the upgrading of their lines to improve and expand the efficiency of their sewer network.”

BFI said that they feel the DENR should simply implement the existing laws and compel all water utilities operating and supplying water in Boracay, to be the one responsible to treat its own wastewater through setting up their own sewer network and sewage treatment plant.

“All water providers have the obligation to treat the water they provide, and not to transfer this responsibility to the water consumers,” the BFI said.

The Foundation also mentioned that it is definitely a bigger environmental risk to allow hundreds of establishments to operate modular STPs and release effluents straight to the sea. It said the DENR would, therefore, have the extremely tedious task of permanently assigning hundreds of staff on the island just to monitor hundreds of STPs 24/7.

 “Random water testing at wider time intervals is not an option especially for Boracay where thousands of tourists swim each day. It is logical to enforce the law requiring all water providers to be responsible in setting up their own sewage treatment facilities, and for DENR to monitor two, instead of hundreds. This action is what is fair and lawful to all, ultimately leveling the playing field for both water providers of Boracay.

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