As recent reports of Panglao Island as the next target after Boracay pervaded the news, it disheartened many people who admired the island for its crystal clear water and white sand that put Bohol province on the global map.
But national leaders and environmental experts have said that Panglao, known as Bohol’s tourism jewel, is suffering from environmental problems because of unregulated development, lax enforcement of laws, and continued surge in tourist arrivals.
Panglao Councilor Rogelyn Degoma said that the island is teeming with resorts with no septic tanks and proper waste disposal facilities and illegal structures.
“About 80 to 90 percent resorts are without waste water facility and sewerage treatment plant (STP). And 60-70 percent are not compliant on septic tanks regulations,” said Degoma.
Most resort owners and investors were reluctant to build their own sewerage system and wastewater treatment plant because of the cost, she said.
Degoma stressed that even the requirement that septic tanks should have three to five chambers had not been complied with by some resort owners.
Some resorts on Alona Beach empty their sewage and other wastes directly into the cave or holes in the resort which would go directly the ground which then transport into the water surrounding coral reefs and other sensitive marine habitats.
Degoma said that the local government should strictly implement the “no discharge permit, no business permit,” policy and individually inspect the sewerage treatment plants to minimize and prevent the rise of coliform.
Panglao has at least 200 business establishments which 33 had only permits from Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an agency attached to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
On Alona Beach in Barangay Tawala in Panglao town, the EMB reported last January that the levels of fecal coliform bacteria had exceeded DENR standards for recreational water.
The total fecal coliform in the area was 305.70 most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters, way above the acceptable level of 100 MPN per 100 ml.
According to the EMB report, the total coliform (including other forms of coliform) level in waters of the village of Tawala in the second quarter of 2017 peaked at 841.69 MPN per 100 ml, still below but near the safe level of 1,000 MPN per 100 ml for water for swimming and other activities.
Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto said that the resort owners had been properly warned already.
“We have never tolerated any violation,” said Chatto as he stressed that Bohol was the first local government unit in the country to pass an ordinance of an “Environmental Code.”
He said the provincial government had a design of the wastewater treatment facility to be put up on Alona and the whole Panglao Island. He said he asked the national government to fund it.
The Panglao municipal government also didn’t have money to build a wastewater treatment facility, said acting Panglao Mayor Pedro Fuertes.
To build a common wastewater facility for the resorts would cost millions which the town didn’t have, he added.
In Dauis, Mayor Marietta Sumaylo said that the LGU is closely monitoring the town’s beaches.
She said only three of 19 establishments have no sewerage treatment facilities.
However, she said that the Badjao community had contributed to the pollution of the seas. The Badjao community, with at least 1,000 population, refused relocation.
Resort owner Dr. Doloreich Dumaluan said that he had foreseen the environmental problems on Panglao years ago.
He spent P 9 million to construct his own wastewater treatment facility in his resort in 2005.
“Panglao is growing, Panglao is bigger that of Boracay. I expect this thing to happen because we have no sewerage treatment plant also in Alona,” said Dumaluan.
“So, I tried to build my own treatment. It’s really worth that I spent this much because I am protecting the environment and I am making money out of the beauty of nature, I have to return back what they gave it to me,” he added.
Beside the wastewater treatment, he also invented machines- glass pulveriser and coconut shredder- to recycle and reuse the bottles, plastics and coconuts found on the seashore.
He said there is still hope for Panglao to protect the environment.
“We should not damage the environment in the name of progress. We have only one Panglao. For me, we have brighter future than Boracay, we could still continue, mitigate, correct what is happening now,” he said.
All is not lost, however, as various government agencies are now cooperating together to protect and save Panglao Island.
A massive cleanup will be held on March 6 so that Panglao’s sandy white beaches will see brighter days.
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