By Nikka Garriga
PUERTO GALERA, ORIENTAL MINDORO—This island has been known among locals and tourists alike for its fine-sand beaches and diving spots.
Puerto Galera is made even more popular perhaps because it is easily accessible as it is only about two to three hours away from Metro Manila.
As with any tourism-driven area, environmental problems eventually arise amid the bustling activities and increasing number of visitor arrivals each year.
The recently-held First Environmental Forum discussed some of the pressing issues particularly related to the solid waste and wastewater management in the popular Sabang Beach that has become perennial concerns for the past years.
According to Mayor Hubbert Dolor, one tourist accounts to about one kilogram of trash per day.
Various proposals have been presented including the installation of a P110-million sewage water treatment project in the area of Sabang alone and the possible increase of the environmental users fee (EUF) from P50 to P120.
However, Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonzo Umali admitted that the latter cannot stand as a solution in itself without a joint action from the private sector.
“We are focusing more on the immediate solutions we can create along with our private stakeholders. Their suggestions are more important as compared to raising the EUF,” he said during the press conference.
The local government has implemented ordinances in an effort to curb the negative effects to both Puerto Galera's marine and terrestrial environment.
Old and new residential, commercial and industrial establishments are required to have their own septic tanks and sewerage treatment boxes.
Illegal dumping of wastes in public places, creeks and canals as well as along the shoreline is inscribed as offenses with corresponding penalties.
In light of the issues that continue to beset the local tourism industry, both leaders have appealed to local government unit and its people to help protect and preserve this coastal island.
“Puerto Galera lost its beauty as a result of our own doing. Now is the high time for us to put our acts together. Let's help one another,” Umali said.
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