Puerto Galera water fails four quality tests, raises safety concerns

Puerto Galera, a famous tourist town in Oriental Mindoro, has failed four consecutive water quality tests, raising concerns about its safety for swimming and other water activities.

Governor Humerlito Dolor made the announcement on Saturday, three days after Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco joined scuba divers in Puerto Galera to prove that its waters were free from an oil spill.

Dolor said the results of the test were released on Friday night, adding that even the town’s drinking water did not pass the quality evaluation.

Although the first water assessment made since the Holy Week showed the town failed, Puerto Galera has remained open to tourists.

The University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute had previously warned of the possibility of an oil spill reaching Puerto Galera and Batangas, prompting calls for preparedness.

Puerto Galera Mayor Rocky Ilagan in early March brushed aside the warning, saying the local government has a boom to block the oil spill from reaching the town’s waters.

Dolor was mum on the possibility of holding local officials liable for allowing residents and tourists to swim in the waters despite traces of oil.

The governor said he has been asking the Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to provide recommendations on whether a ban should be imposed.

“I’ll wait for the official declaration of the DOH and DENR so that announcements could hold more water,” Dolor said, adding that the town’s air passed the quality test.

Frasco went scuba diving in Puerto Galera on Wednesday to show her support for the town and encourage more tourists to visit.

“Notwithstanding the difficulties, the challenges, and the calamities this province has and is facing, the Philippines, including Puerto Galera and Mindoro, continues to be a beautiful tourist destination,” she said.

Dolor advised the public to take precautions and explore alternative attractions like the beautiful rivers in Oriental Mindoro.

Local tourism data shows that from April 3 to 10, 2023, Puerto Galera received a total of 18,757 tourists, with the top sources of foreign markets during this period being China, South Korea, the United States, Japan, and Germany.

Since the sinking of MT Princess Empress off the coast of Oriental Mindoro last February, carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel, about 66 tourist sites have been affected by the environmental disaster, impacting 1,400 tourism workers.

MORE: DOT chief Frasco takes a dive in Puerto Galera, shows it’s oil spill-free

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