By: Atty. Lorenzo Luigi T. Gayya, Associate
Touted as one of the best islands in the world, Boracay is now closed for rehabilitation.President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the island’s total closure for six months effective April 26, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed in a tweet last April 4. The president previously described Boracay as a “cesspool” and threatened its shutdown in a speech last February.
The move was met with mixed reactions. There are those who say it was about time that the island is closed. Others, particularly local businesses in the island, think that shutting down Boracay is an overkill and unnecessary and will result in the unemployment of thousands of employees. There are even allegations that that the shutdown was made to accommodate the building of a casino in the island.
But often left out of the microscope of public discussion are the environmental laws that are said to have been violated by Boracay’s local government units and business establishments.
Among the environmental issues besetting the island are sewage, pollution and waste management. A report says that as of February 26, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had already issued 207 notices of violations—and counting— to establishments found violating environmental laws. There were 116 notices for violation of R.A. No. 9275 titled the “Philippine Clean Water Act,” 77 for violating R.A. No. 8749 titled “Philippine Clean Air Act,” five for a violation of both laws, and nine for operating without an environmental compliance certificate (ECC).
Clean Water Act
Section 27 (e) of the Clean Water Act prohibits the unauthorized transport or dumping into sea waters of sewage sludge or solid waste. Violators shall be fined in amount ranging from P10,000 to P200,000 for every day of violation, and failure to undertake clean-up operations shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than two years but not more than four years and a fine ranging from P50,000 to P100,000 per day of violation. The DENR Secretary, upon recommendation of the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), is also authorized to close or suspend the business operations of violators.
Under Section 14 of the same law, owners of establishments that discharge wastewater are required to secure a valid Discharge Permit from the DENR. In other words, it is illegal for businesses to just throw away dirty water and other liquids to the sea.
DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said in a report that while around 50% to 60% of business establishments in the island comply with R.A. No. 9275, around 300 establishments are dumping their untreated waste water directly into the sea or canals. Many establishments are also found to be operating with an expired Discharged Permit or none at all.
Last year, tourists began noticing that the water in some parts of Boracay’s beaches are slimy green, suspecting that waste dumping is to blame, although locals insists that the green water is caused by algal bloom which is nothing unusual.
However, in a five-year (2010 to 2015) study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) consisting of Filipino and Japanese scientists, it was found that the algal bloom and coral reef deterioration can be attributed to the direct discharge of untreated waste water.
“Direct discharge of untreated waste water near the shore brings about poor water quality level that consequently results in frequent algal blooms and coral reef deterioration,” said JICA in a press release.
Clean Air Act
The water is not the only thing to look out for as polluted air is also a concern for the island. Some business establishments are found to be operating without a valid Permit to Operate as required by the Clean Air Act.
Section 16 of the Clean Air Act authorizes the DENR to issue permits as it may determine necessary for the prevention and abatement of air pollution. The permits shall cover emission limitations for the regulated air pollutants to help attain and maintain the ambient air quality standards. They shall serve as management tools for the LGUs in the development of their action plan.
The law’s implementing rules thus require all sources of air pollution—which include some business establishments—to have a valid Permit to Operate which imposes on its holder the obligation to comply with the provisions and standards of R.A. No. 8749 and its implementing rules.
Environmental Compliance Certificate
It is needless to state that operating a business, especially in places like Boracay, requires a lot of permits or certificates. Another—yet very important—permit is the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).
Section 4 of P.D. No. 1586 prohibits any person or business from undertaking or operating any environmentally critical project or area, as declared by the President, without securing an Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by the President or duly authorized representatives.
The DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) issues the ECC after it is convinced that the project will not have a significant adverse effect to the environment.
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