PUERTO PRINCESA CITY - Water pollution caused by improper sewage management amid uncontrolled coastal development in the picturesque town of El Nido in Northern Palawan province is threatening to set back its rapidly growing tourism sector, Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection Nereus Acosta warned.
Speaking before the Palawan Chamber of Commerce on the threats of climate change on Saturday, Acosta cited recent results of water sampling tests conducted in El Nido that showed the popular beach being contaminated with coliform, or organisms forming from human and animal wastes.
Acosta was referring to the popular public beach cove that demarcates the shoreline of the town proper along Bacuit Bay.
"The sewer lines from houses and establishments are directly emptying into the beach of El Nido. I was literally jumping over stench-filled canals," Acosta said.
Laboratory examination of water samples from Bacuit Bay exceeded tolerable limits of pollutants, he added.
"BOD or biochemical oxygen demand is at levels 3,000 per cent higher than what the Clean Air Act, which I principally authored in Congress, allowed," said Acosta,
a former representative of Bukidnon province.
The Philippine Water Code provides critical indicators of water quality, including measurements of dissolved oxygen in water important in the process of dissolving biological organisms in it.
The evident cause of beach pollution in El Nido, Acosta observed, is the absence of a proper drainage system in the municipality.
"I had voiced my deep concern with the mayor and the provincial government about this and I hope something can be done," he said.
El Nido, according to provincial government tourism statistics, is the province's main tourist draw next to the Underground River in Puerto Princesa City. It is located at the northernmost part of mainland Palawan, some 240 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa City.
The municipality boasts an iconic beach lined with small lodging facilities, restaurants and souvenir shops.
The tourism activities in the town include island hopping, spelunking, diving, snorkeling and other water-based activities. The town also hosts high-end island-resorts, including Soriano Corp.'s El Nido Resorts.
"The main town of El Nido is an ecological disaster waiting to happen," Marge Araneta, an El Nido resident, told the Inquirer in an e-mail.
She confirmed observations that "the drainage of some hotels, cottages and restaurants are leading directly into the beach."
"There is no sewage disposal system and all septic tanks are dug underground," she said.