By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
After Boracay, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro gets the attention of environment authorities.
Fourteen establishments in the beach fronts of Sabang and White Beach in Puerto Galera town were given notices to vacate by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 4B (MIMAROPA) and told to voluntarily dismantle structures they built on easement zones.
DENR-MIMAROPA Assistant Regional Director Vicente Tuddao Jr., who chairs Task Force Galera personally served the notices to Tina’s Sunset Cottages, Restaurant and Dive Center, Ocean Dream Lodge, Paradise Dive Zone Resort, Corp., Pink and Black Lodging House, Montani Beach Resort, Sabang Inn, Sabang Divers, Mangosteen Restaurant, Dive Dojo, Mermaid Resort Charletan Inc., Modem Development Company, Inc., Captn Gregg, Eddie’s Place Bar and Restaurant, Marginor Diner and Snack, and I Dive at Casa Mia.
Except for Marginor Diner and Snack and I Dive at Casa Mia, which are in Barangay San Isidro, the rest are in Barangay Sabang.
The establishments were given 30 days to comply.
“We hope they will be responsible enough to remove the structures they have built on easement zones within that period. The sooner we can start the rehabilitation of Sabang and White Beach, the better,” Tuddao said.
Apart from clearing up the three-meter easement zone, Task Force Galera also inspected establishments for compliance to environmental regulations, such as securing discharge permit, environmental compliance certificate, permit to operate, hazardous waste registration, compliance to solid waste segregation, and having a pollution control officer.
The absence of proper wastewater disposal facility, aggravated by overcrowding of structures along the beaches, is seen as a major source of coliform contamination of Sabang and White Beach.
The water quality tests in five sampling stations in Puerto Galera from 2009 to 2017 showed high fecal coliform levels.
DENR-MIMAROPA Regional Director Natividad Bernardino said notices of violations will also be served in the coming days to establishments found violating environmental rules.
Bernardino said she hopes people appreciate what DENR is doing as it is for the long-term good of everyone. “Who would want to visit Puerto Galera in the future if its beaches have become too dirty and hazardous to swim in?” she asked.
She added that DENR is trying to rehabilitate Puerto Galera not only for tourism but also for scientific researches.
In 1977, Puerto Galera was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), an international recognition that it is a model of sustainable development which provides “living observatories.”
However, in 2014, UNESCO nearly stripped Puerto Galera of this recognition after it concluded the town did not meet the criteria.
It was only in July, 2017 that the status was affirmed after the local government submitted an Integrated Management Plan.