We need time to fix Galera, biz owners say
CALAPAN CITY — Business owners in the resort town of Puerto Galera have asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to give them more leeway, amid the government crackdown on beach resorts and other establishments violating environmental laws.
The appeal came while the business owners, particularly members of the Puerto Galera Business and Tourism Enterprise Association (PGBTEA), a group of about 30 hotel and resort owners, said they fully supported the government’s initiative to clean up their town in Oriental Mindoro province.
“There really are those violating [the law], like directly discharging wastewater [into the sea]. It’s a problem that has been going on for so long and nothing has really been done until now,” said Joel de Veyra of PGBTEA.
“But like in Boracay, I understand they were given [some time before they start self-demolition]. Maybe they can also give us some leeway,” he said.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu had issued a directive to clean up popular tourist spots, among these were Puerto Galera and the towns of El Nido and Coron in Palawan province.
The order came after President Duterte, in February, described Boracay, a world-class tourist island in Aklan province, a “cesspool,” primarily because of its garbage problems.
Natividad Bernardino, DENR regional director in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), earlier said the agency was “considering” a suggestion from the business owners to postpone the possible demolition of structures violating the 3-meter easement zone, or those without proper sewerage systems by July, or at least by the start of the lean period for tourist arrival.
According to the municipal government, Puerto Galera, specifically the area called White Beach, draws about 250,000 local visitors yearly. Sabang Bay has around 70,000 foreign guests, mostly divers, it said.
De Veyra said resorts and hotels, as well as diving shops, generated about “80 to 95 percent” of the town’s income.
“Most of the visitors are weekenders,” he added.
High coliform level
The local government announced its plan to build a sewerage treatment facility in Sabang Bay, where the water showed high level of coliform.
But De Veyra doubted the facility could be built soon to address the issue.
On Monday, DENR’s Task Force Puerto Galera held a command conference in this city, in preparation for its 15-day “groundwork” to inspect about 500 establishments in Sabang Bay, starting Wednesday or Thursday.
Mary June Maypa, DENR director in Oriental Mindoro, said task force members were divided into teams to check the establishments’ permits and property titles, discharge of waste water, and coastline encroachment.
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