In a consultative meeting held on February 6-7, 2023, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) led by Acting Executive Director Nino Rey C. Estoya, MNSA, CESE, presented to El Nido’s Municipal Mayor Edna Gacot-Lim and Palawan Governor Victorino Dennis M. Socrates the findings of PCSDS’s report in Bacuit and El Nido Bay, in a bid to address the water challenges besetting the municipality.
In its water quality monitoring of El Nido’s Bacuit Bay since 2007, the ECAN Monitoring and Evaluation Division (EMED) found that there is a consistent increase in the concentration of total and fecal coliform, exceeding the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) water quality guidelines, except during the height of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021.
PCSDS-EMED also discovered as early as 2011 that the groundwater of Poblacion, El Nido was contaminated with fecal coliforms beyond the allowable standards for drinking or potable water under the Department of Health (DOH) guidelines.
In the respective briefings with El Nido Mayor Gacot-Lim and Palawan Governor Socrates, Mr. Estoya highlighted the PCSDS’ findings on the groundwater of El Nido, essentially revealing that water being sourced from either dug, shallow, or deep wells in the area is no longer fit for domestic use. The results of PCSDS’ monitoring were partly validated by the Department of Health (DOH) in 2022 in their random water quality testing of water refilling stations, water distributors, and tourism accommodations due to reported high diarrhea cases affecting both tourists and local people.
High concentration of fecal coliform bacteria is dangerous because it may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and fever in the victims, among others.
To resolve the dire water quality situation in the municipality, the PCSDS crafted an action plan in collaboration with the Provincial Government of Palawan and the Municipal Government of El Nido. The plan includes, among others, connection of all commercial establishments and local households to the Sewage Waste Treatment Plan (STP), water quality testing of all water providers, refilling stations, and SEP-permitted establishments, and prohibition on groundwater use.
On February 8, the MIMAROPA Regional Committee on Tourism also had a meeting with the Governor and officials from the Provincial Government of Palawan and the Municipal Government of El Nido to address the municipality’s pressing water quality challenges.
It was attended by Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Azucena Pallugna; Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) MIMAROPA Assistant Regional Director Donna Mayor-Gordove; DOH representative Dr. Rommel Lizan; DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-MIMAROPA representatives Engr. Pablito Estorque and Ms. Kathryn Tupasi; Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA); and other concerned agencies who expressed interest in the PCSDS-led proposed consolidated action plan for El Nido.