Seawaters off Cordova ‘not safe’ for swimming

·4 min read

THE seawaters off Cordova town are no longer suitable for swimming as they did not pass the water quality check conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) three weeks ago.

This was what Cordova Mayor Cesar “Didoy” Suan said during his speech following the flag-raising ceremony outside the Municipal Hall on Monday, August 15, 2022, that was live-streamed on social media.

“Ang coliform nga supposedly 100 below aron makaligo ang atoang mga turista ug mga taga-Cordova, ang resulta sa pipila ka mga areas, instead of 300, [niabot og] 1,300 ang presence of coliform,” said Suan. (The coliform level should be below 100 so our tourists and locals can swim in Cordova, but the results in some areas, instead of 300, show that the presence of coliform has reached 1,300.)

The standard coliform level for coastal waters to consider them safe for swimming and other similar recreational activities is 100 most probable number (mpn) per 100 milliliters, according to the DENR.

Apart from that, the floating and fixed cottages in the area are reportedly disorganized, particularly in the seawaters of Barangays Poblacion and Catarman.

The mayor said the municipal government of the eastern Cebu town would show political will by addressing the problem as quickly as it can or risk losing its tourist attractions and seawater fish species.

He urged all the employees of the municipal government and the constituents to cooperate and understand what they are about to do in coordination with Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, whom the local officials are set to meet this week.

“Tungod kay wala tay laing tumong ug tinguha ang pagtabang ug serbisyo og tinud-anay sa lungsod sa Cordova,” he added. (Because we have no other goal and desire but to help and provide real service to the town of Cordova.)

Apart from that, he noted that all the fixed cottages have no decent portable toilet that could be used by the renters.

“Ang tanan nga mga floating cottages, duna tuoy toilet pero siguro napulo ra ka tawo ang makagamit. Inig human, mapuno na. Asa naman sab to siya ilabay inig human?” said Suan.

(All the floating cottages have a toilet, but maybe only 10 people could use it before it gets full. And then where do they dispose of the waste afterward?)

He invited the owners of fixed and floating cottages and stall owners at the temporary public market to a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, August 17, at the Sports Complex with Garcia, and officials of the DENR, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Navy, Department of Tourism, Department of Health, and other concerned agencies in the province.

He said they will discuss what to do with the seawaters that has provided the town with tourism and its fish supply.

Suan issued his first executive order as Cordova mayor last July 5, and it prohibits the construction of illegal structures such as floating cottages along legal easement zones and within the town’s coastal areas. He issued the order after he received a letter from the DENR concerning the floating cottages that have been operating in Barangays Poblacion and Catarman as these areas are considered no-build zones.

This was supported by Garcia as she ordered an immediate stop to the further construction of illegal structures like floating and fixed cottages within the foreshore area, mangrove zone, public beach zone, and municipal fishing zones of the Municipality of Cordova.

In Executive Order (EO) 19 issued on August 9, 2022, the governor also ordered owners and operators of pump boats and other similar sea vessels "to immediately cease and desist from transporting materials" to these areas for the construction of these illegal structures.

Aside from violating national and local laws on easement zones, the floating and fixed cottages in question also have no clearances and permits from the Municipal Government of Cordova, or proper waste management facilities, causing pollution in violation of Presidential Decree 856, or the Sanitation Code of the Philippines, and Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, Garcia said.

She said the use of boats intended exclusively for recreational purposes for the transport of materials or towing of vessels transporting construction materials for the illegal structures violates Maritime Industry Authority Memorandum Circular DS-2019-01 that requires all recreational boats to be used solely for that purpose.

Last July 18, Cordova Mayor Suan threatened to close floating cottages in the town should the owners fail to provide adequate comfort rooms within the week.

But a week later, on July 25, Suan said he learned that an operator of floating cottages insisted on putting additional cottages on the town’s coast.

Suan added that five sacks of garbage could be seen under about 150 to 200 fixed cottages in the town during his surprise inspection last July 24.

The DENR’s Administrative Order 2021-07 states that legal easements are "determined to be applied, such that, a three-meter easement zone and a 20-meter easement zone shall be adopted for urban and rural areas, respectively."