DOH warns vs. swimming in Catarman, Cordova

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THE Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH 7) has issued a warning against swimming and doing other similar activities within the coastal waters of Barangay Catarman, Cordova town.

This as high levels of fecal coliform were found in the area.

DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas issued the warning Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, following the request of acting Cebu Provincial Administrator Prince Lee Balaba for the issuance of a health advisory in relation to an updated inspection report submitted by the Environment and Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-EMB).

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) 25 on August 29 which prohibits the operation and use of illegal structures such as floating and fixed cottages in the seawaters off Cordova.

During a stakeholders meeting at the Cordova Sports Complex on August 17, Garcia gave the owners of floating and fixed cottages in the town until August 28 to operate.

She said the seawaters off Cordova need to be rehabilitated after the fecal coliform level (FCL) in the area exceeded the limit.

Fecal coliform

During the stakeholders’ meeting, DENR 7 officials said a second water quality check in Cordova’s coastal waters conducted on August 10 revealed that the FCL along areas where fixed and floating cottages were present had reached 2,400 most probable number (mpn) per 100 milliliters.

The number is close to twice the amount found during DENR’s first water quality check in July this year, which was 1,300 mpn per 100 milliliters.

The standard FCL for coastal waters to be considered safe for swimming and other recreational activities is 100 mpn per 100 milliliters, according to the DENR.

The pollution in the area was allegedly caused by the unregulated establishment of cottages on and along the coast.

Apart from the high levels of fecal coliform, which is beyond the maximum allowable level, Bernadas said the DOH 7 assessment team also observed that such structures have poor sewage and waste water disposal systems which violate existing Sanitation Code standards.

“While we caution the public from swimming in the affected coastal waters, we assure that the DOH, DENR, and the local government unit of Cordova are in prompt coordination with the operators of these structures to ensure compliance with sanitation standards and regulations,” said Bernadas.

Fecal coliforms are known to cause water-borne diseases once a person accidentally drinks or ingests contaminated waters. Symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach pains, and loose bowel movements.

If left untreated, Bernadas said a person may be at risk for dehydration due to electrolyte loss. He urged the people to immediately consult with their doctor if they experience any of the symptoms.

Not suitable

Cordova Mayor Cesar “Didoy” Suan on August 22 said the vicinity where the floating and fixed cottages were operating in the seawaters off barangays Poblacion and Catarman -- was no longer suitable for swimming due to the high coliform level.

Suan said they will ask the DENR-EMB to check the other parts of the town to determine where they could allow beach activities, particularly swimming.

Remove illegal structures in Bantayan

Meanwhile, Garcia also issued two executive orders on Thursday, Sept. 8, concerning the illegal structures in the easement and foreshore zones in the town of Bantayan, Bantayan Island.

EO 30 ordered all persons to immediately cease and desist from further constructing illegal structures within the defined easement and foreshore zones of Barangays Baigad, Sillon, Tamiao, and Atop-atop in the town.

While EO 31, ordered all concerned owners or claimants to demolish their abandoned, unoccupied, or obsolete illegal structures, including pigpens, toilets, and septic tanks within the defined easement and foreshore zones in the aforementioned barangays within two weeks from Sept. 8 or until Sept. 22.

During the stakeholders meeting in the town on Wednesday, Sept. 7, Garcia and the municipal government of Bantayan, led by Mayor Arthur Despi, agreed with these measures along with the stakeholders with the hopes to make their beachfront more visible.

“We will be able to achieve a beautiful beach front in these four barangays, you will be the model,” Garcia told the owners of the structures.

Despi, for his part, said he will issue an EO to ensure the implementation of the 10-meter easement zone.