DOT chief firm on keeping Puerto Galera open despite safety concerns

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco emphasized the importance of striking a “balance between safeguarding lives and livelihoods” as worries mount over the safety of the water in Puerto Galera.

In a press conference in Malacanang Tuesday, Frasco reiterated that the seawater off the resort town remains free from oil spill even as 26 out of 35 sample sites, or 74.29%, failed the water quality test.

“We welcome this positively especially considering that of the nine sites identified (to be free from contaminants), several of these are actually very prime dive sites for Puerto Galera – one of which I dove in recently, specifically in La Laguna,” she said.

Frasco joined scuba divers in La Laguna last week in a bid to show the public that the famous tourist town was free from oil slick.

But on Saturday, Governor Bonz Dolor said that Puerto Galera has failed four consecutive water quality tests, raising concerns about its safety for swimming and other water activities.

READ: Puerto Galera water fails four quality tests, raises safety concerns

Mayor Rocky Ilagan, meanwhile, decried this announcement as “hasty and premature”, saying the results of the town’s water quality tests showing traces of contaminants were not yet conclusive.

MORE: Ilagan decries as ‘hasty and premature’ a declaration Puerto Galera is unsafe

For Frasco, ensuring that Puerto Galera remains open to tourists is a paramount concern.

She highlighted the importance of protecting the livelihood of the 11,000 workers who depend on the town’s tourism industry, as well as their families.

“Multiply that (11,000) by five in terms of their families, and that is thousands upon thousands of people who depend on tourism,” she said.

“The lessons that we’ve learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and the various calamities that have befallen our country is that there has to be a balance between the protection of life and the protection of livelihood,” Frasco said. “Because the complete and utter devastation of livelihood can also lead to a loss of life.”

Since the sinking in February of MT Princess Empress off the coast of Naujan, about 66 tourist sites across the province have been affected by the environmental disaster.

Citing figures from the provincial tourism office, Frasco said Oriental Mindoro incurred a little over P900 million in losses due to the oil spill.

MORE: DOH on Puerto Galera ban: Not yet, but don’t swim there

Photo courtesy of Municipality of Puerto Galera

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