Source: MANILA BULLETIN, May 3, 2005
Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro was recently cited as the “Most Beautiful Bay in the World” by a European-based advocacy group of the same name.
The citation, given last April 2 in Nha Trang City, Vietnam in effect enlisted Puerto Galera as a new member of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club with over 80 members from various countries.
The protection, enhancement, promotion and commitment of the world’s top bays are the club’s fundamental mantra to hasten economic development without exploiting the natural resources.
Councilor Daniel T. Enriquez and Hubert d’Aboville, a Founder and President of Together-Esemble, received the significant citation. d’Aboville, who heads the Philippine-based Together-Ensemble foundation, has been a long-time partner of the local government, alongside with the Locsin Foundation, headed by Tito Locsin.
In a recent press conference, both sectors expressed hopes that the municipals “quality” tourism coupled with tight environmental health security would boost not only the tourism industry in the Oriental Mindoro, but also the country as whole.
Enriquez, who heads the Committee on Environmental Protection, and representing Mayor Teo Atienza, cited anew the importance of the award for them and his municipality.
Into the world tourism map
Winning the award marked the gradual inclusion of the country into a world tourism map, saying that the citation was an honor not only for the municipal government, but also for the country.
“We hope that through this membership, Puerto Galera will be known and included into the world tourism map. With this also, we are looking forward that Puerto Galera Bay will be more environmentally protected by following wise tourism practices being implemented by the other member bays,” Enriquez said.
In three months, the municipality, known for its finest beaches, lured million of local tourists and more than 12,000 foreign tourists, according to Venancio Yap, municipal administrator.
The influx of local and foreign tourists shows that indeed Puerto Galera has been eyed as one of the country’s prominent spots in the tourism enclave.
Tourism: ‘life and blood’
Yap said the tourism industry in Puerto Galera is the “life and blood of the people,” citing that only a small portion of the area can be utilized for agricultural purposes and the rest are intended for tourism purposes.
However, d’Aboville cautioned the officials over the increasing number of tourists, saying a well-prepared scheme to address the needs of the tourists is needed, knowing that Filipinos has been acclaimed for their warm hospitality.
“The more we bring in tourists, the more we must be organized,” d’Aboville said.
According to Yap, the capacity to receive tourists must be the main concern of the local government, saying that any discrepancies might trigger the death of the tourism industry in the area.
Battling for sustainable tourism
Locsin said the “fantastic biodiversity” should not be threatened, stressing that the concerned officials, groups, and agencies should map out a strategy “to minimize the impact and make it sustainable.”
Yap further said that any ecological imbalance and biodiversity destruction would “mean total starvation in the area.”
In response to the posing threat of the continuous tourism outburst, Vice Mayor Juan S. Ascan, Jr. assured that the local government has already installed administrative and legal systems of safeguards to shield the environment from any harm.
“We have ordinances regulating activities in the different beaches, as well as in the mountains and all around Puerto Galera. Aside from that, we conducted some meetings in every barangay to disseminate some activities in connection with conservation and protection of our natural resources,” Ascan said.
To really preserve Puerto Galera’s biodiversity, they reactivated the “Bantay Dagat” project to watch activities not only in the beaches, but also in the diving sites.
He added that their tourist guides undergo seminars to properly guide the tourists.
He said the municipal administration is sincere in taking its full-swing effort to also maintain peace and order in the area.
Due to diverse and unique seascapes, Puerto Galera was tagged as a “Man and Biosphere (MAB) Reserved,” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1970. In 2000, it gained prominence, following the award given by the Department of Tourism as the 9th Tourist destination in the Philippine archipelago.
Indeed, the fantastic biodiversity coupled with the commitment to protect the environment made Puerto Galera achieve their grandeur in both local and global tourism arena.
It’s not the “quantity” tourism that counts, but “quality” tourism.