Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary (Usec) Katherine S. De Castro expressed alarm over news warning tourists against swimming in Panglao Island seawater which, according to the report, is contaminated with high levels of fecal coliform.
De Castro, Usec for Public Affairs, Communications and Special Projects, clearly disturbed by the “cesspool” description of the waters in Panglao Island told the Chronicle that “they should be more specific as to what part of Panglao or Bohol is a cesspool.”
A cesspool is a large, underground hole or container that is used for collecting and storing human waste and dirty water.
De Castro who is also the Officer-in-Charge of the Philippine Commission on Sports and Scuba Diving (PCSSD) was referring to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which prepared the 2017 Panglao Water Quality Status Report.
Boholanos were startled by the banner headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) on Friday, April 13, 2018 DENR UNCOVERS MACTAN, PANGLAO ‘Cesspool’ quoting EMB Central Visayas Regional Director William Cunado confirming that “the bureau’s recent study found that fecal coliform reached 150 to 200 most probable number (MPN) in Panglao.”
The acceptable standard for fecal coliform considered safe for swimming and water sports is 100 MPN per 100 milliliters.
Short of blaming the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the fiasco behind the “cesspool” tag, De Castro took exception to the purported release of information without providing the DOT with a list of areas they label as “cesspool”.
“The DENR has not given us a list of places that they have declared as “cesspools”, said De Castro.
According to De Castro, the DOT will come out with a statement regarding the “cesspool” issue hounding Panglao Island as reported by the PDI even as they have requested DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to provide the agency with a list of “problematic areas”.
De Castro also admonished the DENR for “bringing to the open” the cesspool label without sharing the information with the DOT to enable them to initiate measures to lessen the impact of a negative classification of an area.
The news report created a stir among provincial and local officials even as Panglao’s coastal and marine waters made it to the Additional List of Classified Water Bodies in Region 7 as per DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2017-13 signed by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu on December 12, 2017.
Panglao also maintained its classification for its coastal and marine waters as class SB which have stringent requirements since these are intended for swimming, bathing, skin diving, etc. or primary contact recreation, commercial propagation of shellfish and spawning areas for “bangus” and similar species and for eco-tourism and recreational activities, according to the EMB.
But Richard Abella, Focal Person, EMB, Bohol lamented that Cunado was misquoted and the PDI news was “inaccurate and misleading”.
“Apparently the reporter misread the Panglao data from the EMB as the 150 to 200 figure that breached the acceptable concentration of 100 MPN per 100 milliliters is a far cry from the 24,000 MPN of fecal coliform recorded in Boracay that prompted President Duterte to declare it as a cesspool.”
Coliform bacteria comes from the feces of humans and other warm-blooded animals and is largely blamed on mass tourism, in the case of Panglao, as the main source of coastal pollution.
According to the 2017 Panglao Water Quality Status Report, the total fecal coliform breached the standard acceptable level of 100 MPN reaching 305.70 MPN per 100 ml. in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 185.33 in 2016 monitored in the first quarters of both years.
Cindylin Pepito, head of the Ambient Monitoring Section of EMB-7, in a meeting with the Panglao Island Chamber of Commerce (PICC) in January maintained that “on the average” Panglao still passed the standards for total coliform and fecal coliform from all its 10 monitoring stations located around the municipal coastal waters in 2016 and 2017.
Despite the sharp rise in fecal coliform level in the seawaters of Panglao in 2017 recorded from 10 monitoring stations around its coastal areas, the EMB downplayed the results as “borderline” but “quite challenging.”
Cunado urged the PICC to forge a “close cooperation among the stakeholders with the aim for a clean Panglao.”
A nine-point must do agenda was also presented by the EMB to guide stakeholders leading to sustainable tourism development with the participation of the LGU of Panglao.
Meanwhile, Panglao Municipal Councilor Rogelin Degoma clarified to the Chronicle her statement, as reported by the PDI that “up to 90% of the resorts in Panglao have no wastewater facilities.”
Degoma showed to the Chronicle data culled from the Municipal Treasurer’s Office list of registered business that out of 379 business establishments classified as engaged in the accommodation service only 10 has sewerage treatment facilities.
The ten were Amarela Resort, Dumaluan Beach Resort, Bohol Beach Club, South Palms Resort, Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa, Amorita Resort, Henann Resort Alona Beach, BE Grand Resort, Bluewater Panglao Resort, and Bellevue Resort Bohol. (Chito M. Visarra)