Politics seeped into an environmental report portraying the coastal waters of a popular tourist destination as “among the dirtiest” with a former town mayor caught in the crossfire between the municipal council and the media.
Former Panglao Mayor Doloreich Dumaluan M.D., together with radio blocktimers Augustin Cloribel and Angel Guimalan were condemned by the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Panglao for broadcasting on air that the coastal area of Panglao “is the dirtiest coastal area in Region VII”.
At the root of the squabble is a monitoring report by the Environmental Management Bureau Region 7 (EMB7) on four rivers and four coastal waters in Central Visayas including Panglao, Bohol as “closely monitored because they are considered among the dirtiest in the region”.
A 2014 Annual Water Quality Status Report of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environment Management Bureau (DENR-EMB7) showed the apparent weakness in the implementation and enforcement of the country’s environmental laws mandated by EMB.
The report saw print in The Freeman, Cebu Sun Star and Super Balita on June 4, 2015 and a local paper on June 7, 2015 that prompted Dumaluan to raise the issue over the air on June 10, 2015 during the program “Ang Tawo ug ang Kinaiyahan” hosted by Cloribel and Guimalan.
Dumaluan, who made the closing speech on the oath taking of the charter members of the Panglao Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the evening of June 10, 2015 also reiterated his concern over the news articles where Governor Edgar Chatto was the guest speaker.
Unfortunately, Panglao Mayor Leonila Montero, one of the invited guests was a no show and could have heard first hand Dumaluan’s apprehensions over the media reports.
Voting 6 (affirmative) – 2 (negative) with one abstention the SB adopted Resolution No. 133 series of 2015 “vehemently condemning the poisonous statements” of Dumaluan, Cloribel and Guimalan aired on June 10, 2015 which the SB considered as “a very unforgivable disaster to the tourism industry in Panglao, Bohol”.
But Panglao Councilor Rogelin Degoma defended the media’s freedom of expression saying “the media has the freedom to express and to air what are the news that they have read through those publications . .”.
Largely seen as a strong contender for mayor in the 2016 elections, Dumaluan expressed disappointment over the SB resolution telling the Chronicle “I raised this issue to serve as a wake up call for officials and stakeholders of Panglao but sadly the council injected politics into the issue”.
On his part, Governor Edgar Chatto said â€œI reviewed the news report and the coastal waters of Panglao was included since this areas are considered populated areasâ€.
Chatto agreed that this is a valid concern which should merit validation and remedial measures to mitigate adverse conditions affecting the area.
â€œThe role of the LGU is to ensure that local ordinances dealing with the environment should be followed and implement sanitation laws to avoid contaminationâ€, said Chatto.
A copy of the 2014 Annual Water Quality Status Report on Panglao Coastal Waters furnished to the Chronicle showed that three monitoring stations established in the coastal waters of Panglao showed “exceedance or greater in number or size to the water quality criteria for total coliform”.
According to Nestor Canda, Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officer (PENRO) water samples are taken from the nine monitoring stations every month and are sent to the regional office for analysis.
Analysis results of water samples for January to May, 2015 have not yet been released, according to Canda.
The monitoring stations located in Alona Beach showed that total coliform breached the 2,500 MPN/100ml exceeding the water quality criteria for total coliform of 1,000MPN/100mL.
Two monitoring stations in Alona Beach and two in the Dulho Beach area also showed “exceedance to the fecal coliform quality criteria of 200MPN/100mL.
A monitoring station in Alona Beach showed that the fecal coliform reached a high of 1,000MPN/100mL but two stations in the same beach and one in Dumaluan beach registered bottom level of fecal coliform.
According to the report, “the exceedance may be attributed to improper or inefficient sewage/wastewater treatment facility within the beach resorts operating along the coastal water of Panglao, Bohol”.
Increased levels of fecal coliforms provide a warning of failure in water treatment and an elevated risk of waterborne gastroenteritis, according to the DENR-EMB.
Canda also clarified that inspection of establishments in coastal areas for compliance of septage requirements falls under the responsibility of the local government unit.
Five of the nine monitoring stations are located in the Alona Beach Area, two in Dulho and two in Dumaluan Beach with each station covering establishments within the 100m radius.
The Chronicle learned that Panglao Vice Mayor Pedro Fuertes pressured Councilor Felix Fudolig to sponsor the prepared resolution condemning Dumaluan and the two radio blocktimers igniting a heated word war between Fuertes and Councilor Rogelin Degoma.
An audio tape of the assailed radio program was replayed during the session on June 15, 2015 where Dumaluan said “we are one of the dirtiest coastline of region 7″ according to the DENR study”.
But during the session, Fuertes who is the presiding officer suddenly pointed to Councilor Felix Fudolig saying “Hon. Fudolig, ikaw akong unahon ug unsay himuon ani? How will you do it now? How will you defend yourself now and the people of Panglao?”
Before a flustered Fudolig could complete his reply, Fuertes instructed him “Mag-gama ka ug resolution condemning this radio time, airing this matter by Dumaluan, Ago and Angi. That is the right thing to do. Make a resolution now”.
“You move for the suspension. Make a resolution condemning this bad news by the radio and the speakers nga kita the dirtiest seawater sa Panglao. Motu-o ba ka ana?, said Fuertes.
Fudolig, who was interviewed by DYRD reporter Rey Tutas confirmed Degoma’s statement over DYRD “Inyong Alagad” about the behaviour of Fuertes during the session saying “I was helpless since I was told by the Vice Mayor to sponsor the resolution”.
In a 2014 report covering 36 establishments located in Bolod, Tawala, Danao and Duljo, coastal waters along their areas were sampled for standard fecal coliform for the months of May to October.
According to EMB7 report, in the Bolod area all establishments passed the coliform standard, Tawala seven passed while 12 failed, in Danao all eight establishment failed and in the Duljo area all seven establishments failed the coliform standard.
Meanwhile Provincial Health Officer Dr. Remoyses Cabagnot clarified to the Chronicle that his office has not conducted water samplings since 2008 since the DENR has taken over the conduct of the tests.
In a water laboratory report dated August 25, 2003 and December 2, 2008 on water sampling in the Tawala area, the PHO declared that the seawaters “not considered safe for bathing purposes”.
A meeting of resort owners in Panglao called by the EMB on April 14 elicited a disappointing attendance of 19 participants to discuss problems confronting resort owners.
With the cat out of the bag, the ball is now in the hands of all the stakeholders of the tourism industry in what is considered as one of Bohol’s crown jewels to put their house in order to survive the ruthless competition for tourist arrivals and put Bohol back to the top of tourism destinations. (CMV)