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DENR to review 'exemption' policy for Boracay businesses.

BUSINESS establishments already connected to a sewer network are exempted from seeking discharge permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Not for long.

DENR Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said he will recommend a review of the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) of Republic Act 9275, or the Clean Water Act of 2004. Leones, the DENR's undersecretary for policy, planning, international affairs and foreign-assisted projects, said the review aims to require all establishments to seek mandatory discharge permits from the DENR.

Leones, who is also the designated spokesman of Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, maintained that while establishments may already be connected to sewer lines, such as in the case of Boracay, there is no way of knowing for sure if these establishments have no other wastewater discharge.

'We need to know the volume of wastewater and the quality of the wastewater being discharged by these establishments,' he said. Besides, the only way to know the discharge fees these establishments need to pay to the DENR is through the discharge permit being issued by us, he added.

Leones said the Task Force Boracay is currently supervising the dismantling of illegal structures on the island resort, the country's top tourist destination in the municipality of Malay, Aklan province.

'The dismantling of illegal structures in some of the wetlands is now ongoing,' he said. 'These wetlands will be recovered from illegal structures as ordered by Cimatu.'

According to Leones, rehabilitating Boracay will require the revival of important water bodies like these wetlands on Boracay, while preventing the direct discharge of untreated wastewater.

As for establishments that have found to be violating the Clean Water Act of 2004, Leones maintained there will no

sacred cow.

He said he will also initiate a policy review of the law's current IRR to make it an air-tight policy.

Discharge permit

LEONES added that a discharge permit is important in determining the volume of wastewater to be discharged by a particular establishment.

This is important in calculating the volume of wastewater which the wastewater-treatment facility of the water company can process and treat before discharge.

He said ensuring that the wastewater is treated to meet the environmental standard is the only way to prevent soil and water pollution, particularly those found in the aquifer, which is a potential source of drinking water.

An establishment that is not connected is required to have its own sewage-treatment plant (STP) and the effluent must not exceed 400 most probable number (MPN) per 100 liters. Beyond that level, an establishment may be held liable for violation of the Clean Water Act of 2004

Under the current setup, establishments in Boracay that are connected, even those that are just recently connected, are exempted from seeking discharge permits.

Leones said this may later pose a problem, hinting that these establishments may be bypassing proper sewer and illegally discharging wastewater.

'We need to review this policy,' he said. 'By next week, we will again conduct water sampling. If the coliform level is still high, then there is something wrong.'

Boracay Island was ordered closed to tourism activities for six months starting on April 26 to allow various stakeholders, led by Task Force Boracay, to rehabilitate the pollution-challenged island.

The direct discharge of untreated wastewater is being blamed for the water pollution in Boracay.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:May 14, 2018
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