By Futch Anthony Inso, Leo Udtohan, Nestle L. Semilla |April 13,2018 - 10:39 PM

A woman is searching for seashells at low tide along the coastal area of Barangay Ibo, Lapu-Lapu City on Friday, April 8, 2018. Informal settlers in this area are among those who are in danger of losing their homes after Mayor Paz Radaza orders their removal and demolition of houses within three meters from the shore as part of the drive to clean up the waters of Mactan from fecal coliform contamination.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza says at least 1,000 families of informal settlers will have to leave the coastal areas of the city, as the local government addresses an Enviromental Management Bureau’s report of fecal coliform contamination of its seawater.

Thousands of informal settlers who have mushroomed around the coastal areas of Lapu-Lapu City have been given notice that they will have to go, as the city government attempts to clean up the waters off Mactan Island, which is famous for its high-end resort facilities.

The exact number of persons are still to be determined but not less than a thousand families are expected to be affected by the order of Mayor Paz Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City, which hosts most of the island’s resorts and hotels. Another local government unit, the municipality of Cordova, is also found on Mactan Island.

Radaza’s order to demolish all houses built within the three-meter shoreline easement came after the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an agency attached to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), released a study that showed the fecal coliform levels of the waters surrounding Mactan Island and on Panglao Island in Bohol were way above the standard for clean water.

According to Radaza, the city government will not provide a relocation site but will be willing to grant housing materials and financial assistance to the affected households, the amount of which has yet to be determined.

EMB Central Visayas Director William Cuñado, however, clarified that it is still safe for people to swim in the waters off the islands of Mactan and Panglao despite the presence of fecal coliform.

“The local government units should not be alarmed (for now). The sea is still safe,” he said in an interview on Friday.

He pointed out that the fecal coliform found in the waters off Panglao and Mactan was not as bad as the level found in the waters off Boracay Island, which President Duterte had described as a “cesspool.”

Enviroment Secretary Roy Cimatu, in a memorandum to the President recommending the closure of Boracay, reported the high concentration of fecal coliform in the Bulabog Beach located in the eastern side of Boracay Island.

According to Cimatu, The test done in the area from March 6-10, 2018 showed “consistent failure” in meeting the standards of the DENR, with an average result of 18,000 MPN (most probable number/ 100ML, greatly exceeding the maximum level of 400 MPN/ 100ML. “

“The high level of fecal coliform is due to the insufficient sewer lines in the area and illegal discharge of some establishments into the drainage system, which is intended for rain water only…. As a result, untreated waste water enters into Bulabog Beach, which is frequently used by tourists for their kite boarding sport and other activities,” the memorandum said.

Still safe

In the case of Mactan and Pangloa, a recent study conducted by the EMB on the waters off these islands showed that fecal coliform level in the waters of Panglao reached only 150 to 200 MPN per 100 ml; and from 180 to 250 MPN in the waters around Mactan.

Cuñado, nonetheless, said Mactan’s and Panglao’s waters are still safe for swimming and watersports because their fecal coliform levels were just slightly higher than the standard of 100 MPN per 100 milliliters (ml).

Radaza, speaking to reporters on Friday, also said the city government, through the City Health Department and the City Environment and Natural Resources (Cenro), also conducts regular water testing and there was no reason to be alarmed, particularly those who patronize the island’s tourism facilities and resorts.

“It’s not alarming. Sa una gani maabot pa ug 500 MPN. Kay among gibasehan is the 1,000 MPN per 100 ml (overall coliform level),” Raza said.

(In the past it even reached 500 MPN but we were not alarmed because we are basing it on 1,000 MPN per 100 ml),” Radaza said.

The contamination could be due to poor or noncompliance with proper wastewater treatment and sewage disposal systems by hotels and resorts on Mactan and Panglao.

To prevent Mactan and Panglao from becoming another Boracay, Cuñado said around 300 hotels and resorts on Panglao and 30 others on Mactan had been issued notices for violating Republic Act 9275 otherwise known as the Clean Water Act.

Aside from waste from hotels and resorts, Cuñado said people living at the shoreline may have contributed to the high level of fecal coliform contamination of the seawater.

Radaza agreed with this observation, as she stressed the need to rid her city’s shorelines of informal settlers, most of whom have no proper toilet facilities or have no septic tanks.

“There is really a possibility that these informal settlers contributed to the fecal coliform in our sea although it’s also likely that it came from other areas,” she said.

Among the areas in Lapu-Lapu City where informal settlers have congregated are in Barangays Poblacion, Pajo, Pusok, Ibo, and Mactan in Lapu-Lapu.

Radaza said the city government of Lapu-Lapu has been distributing urinal pans to residents in these areas.

Waste receptacles for ships

Aside from the informal settlers, Radaza said sea vessels passing through the Mactan Channel should be required to have their own waste receptacles or tanks and for them not just throw their waste into the water.

Radaza said she would be writing to the manage-ment of the different shipping companies operating from or doing business in Cebu to manage their own waste.

She said she would also require sea vessels, especially those small inter-island ferries, that will pass through Mactan Island to have their own septic tanks.

Radaza will meet with all the vessel owners and operators operating in and out of Cebu this Tuesday.


In Panglao, the DENR earlier identified the lack of waste water treatment facilities and “bottomless” septic tanks as among the problems contributing to the environmental woes of the island which was considered the “jewel” of Bohol’s tourism.

As of March 7, the EMB identified 344 establishments in Panglao without valid discharge permits. Panglao Councilor Rogelyn Degoma said the latest study conducted by EMB showed that she was right all along when she first raised an alarm in January on the level of fecal coliform in Panglao waters.
She said that the local government should be serious in implementing the laws.

“I look forward to that the provincial government, the national agencies, especially the local government, can take concrete actions in mitigating actions to prevent the coliform from growing higher. I hope this is taken into consideration as soon as possible,” said Degoma./ with Nestor Burgos, Inquirer

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