ENVIRONMENT Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered the rehabilitation of Puerto Galera in Mindoro Oriental to follow in the footsteps of Boracay in Aklan and Manila Bay in a bid to protect and preserve the country’s prime tourist destinations.
“What we did and are doing in Boracay and Manila Bay, we will replicate in Puerto Galera,” Cimatu was quoted as saying.
He recently ordered Henry Adornado, regional executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Mimaropa to put up a DENR office in Puerto Galera to ensure that the popular resort is properly managed.
Cimatu also instructed Adornado to facilitate the transfer of the regional office from Roxas Boulevard in Manila to Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro pursuant to provisions of Republic Act 10879 that makes the city the regional center for Mimaropa.
Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan make up Mimaropa.
On his visit to the island last week, Cimatu checked on the construction of a P100-million modern sewage treatment plant (STP) in Barangay Sabang, which can treat up to 1,750 cubic meters of wastewater per day.
Now on its commissioning stage, the STP is expected to be fully operational this month.
Meanwhile, Barangay San Isidro is also being eyed as a prospective site of a second STP on the island.
The DENR chief thanked Puerto Galera Mayor Rocky Ilagan for actively participating in the island’s rehabilitation by facilitating the construction of the treatment plant to address urgent issues of water pollution.
“It will never be easy. But I can already see the strengthened collaboration between the DENR regional task force and the local government unit in saving Puerto Galera,” Cimatu said.
“I commend and thank you for your sacrifices but please be reminded that we are protecting Puerto Galera not only for ourselves, but more importantly for the generations to come,” he added.
In February 2018, Task Force Puerto Galera was created to spearhead the cleanup of the island and ensure strict implementation of environmental laws including Republic Act 9275 or the “Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004” and Presidential Decree 705 or the “Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.”
The task force is composed of personnel from the DENR and the Environmental Management Bureau.
It works closely with the provincial and municipal governments, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Tourism.
In April last year, a total of 14 establishments in Puerto Galera were given notice by the DENR-Mimaropa to vacate and remove structures that the businesses had built on easement zones in Sabang and White Beach — two major tourist destinations in Puerto Galera.
Puerto Galera was declared “Man and Biosphere Reserve” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1977, but was almost stripped out of the title in 2014.
From 2009 to 2017, it showed high levels of fecal coliform as a result of the absence of proper wastewater disposal and overcrowding.