Amid efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay, plans are also afoot to transform the waters of Bacuit Bay in El Nido, Palawan swimmable by May this year.

“We are confident we can present to the public an improved Bacuit Bay — safe and fit for bathing and swimming,” said Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for MIMAROPA region during the First Environmental Forum held recently in El Nido, Palawan.

Around 200 participants attended the forum aimed at orienting the stakeholders on the various stages of establishing a water quality management area, including commercial establishment owners, business operators and representatives of local and national government agencies.

According to Adornado, the DENR, together with other government agencies, is pushing for the declaration of Bacuit Bay as a water quality management area or WQMA, in consonance with the provision of Republic Act. No. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Act of 2004.

WQMA is an integrated water quality management system designed to protect and save bodies of water through collaborative efforts of respective stakeholders and government agencies.

“Water quality management is one of the priorities of Secretary Cimatu. The establishment of Bacuit Bay as a WQMA adheres to the thrust of his administration for clean water. We look forward to having a sustained and collective action towards saving Bacuit Bay and the rest of our natural resources here in El Nido,” DENR Assistant Secretary for Field Operations for Southern Luzon Reynulfo Juan said during the forum.

Among the topics discussed in the environmental forum was the implementation of the 10-year action plan for Bacuit Bay to address the various issues facing the bay, including water quality issues.

Last year, the DENR has created a Task Force El Nido to lead coastal clean-up and ensure strict enforcement of environmental rules and regulations in the area.

This year, the DENR will be working with the local government units to establish a one-stop shop to assist concerned stakeholders in complying with government requirements.

The DENR is likewise working on building an additional office in El Nido and the establishment of a bacteriological laboratory in the area, where the EMB can immediately perform the necessary water tests. ###