THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has formed a task force to monitor and enforce environmental rules in key Visayan resort destinations after the department’s crackdown on Boracay island.

In a statement Monday, DENR Region 7 Director Gilbert C. Gonzales said that the Regional Foreshore Area Task Force (RFATF) will be conducting inspections on the tourist areas in Mactan, Cebu and Panglao, Bohol, which are the some of most visited islands in Visayas.

“We do not want the same situation in Boracay to happen in Panglao and Mactan. Together with the local government units and EMB-Region 7, the task force will be monitoring establishments’ compliance with environmental laws, rules and regulations,” Mr. Gonzales said.

RFATF will be drafting an updated list of establishments that are found to have violated environmental rules. Violations include building structures with no proper permits, as well as infractions as outlined in the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and the Clean Water Act.

In a separate statement, the DENR called for the local government unit in Aklan to strictly enforce rules that require both households and establishments to connect to a sewerage system.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that the LGU of Malay, Aklan has appropriate ordinances dating back to 2012 that have not been strictly enforced.

“Boracay’s sewage is the number one problem in the island, and it requires urgent action from us. We are giving companies not connected to the sewer lines one month to link up. If they fail to do so, they will face sanctions,” he added.

Ordinance 307 states that establishments and households that are within the 61-meter proximity of a sewerage system are required to connect to the system.

Those beyond that distance are required to have their own waste water treatment plants as well as septic tanks.

Boracay Island Water Corp. (BIWC), one of the island’s water concessionaires and the operator of the sewage facilities, in earlier reports said that only 195 of 578 establishments are not connected to its sewer lines while only 5% of 4,331 residents are connected to the company’s waste water treatment facilities.

BIWC is a joint venture formed by the Manila Water Co., Inc. and the Tourism Infrastrucutre and Enterprise Zone Authority. Early this month, Mr. Cimatu ordered BIWC to rehabilitate its waste water treatment facility to accommodate more customers.

“Companies release a huge volume of waste water, so it is important for us to crack down on them. And we do not know if these 195 establishments are causing problems with the island’s drainage system,” Mr. Cimatu said.

“For residents, we will help them connect to the sewers if possible, or provide alternatives for them in cooperation with the water concessionaires.” — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato