DOT gravely concerned over oil spill’s impact on tourism workers, destinations

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The oil spill in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro deeply concerns the Department of Tourism as it poses threat to the tourism and livelihood of destinations affected.

“The Department of Tourism is gravely concerned about the negative impact that the oil spill has had and can still have on our tourism destinations and our local communities, which is why our regional offices have been in very close collaboration and coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the (Philippine) Coast Guard, as well as our local government units and other relevant government agencies to ensure that from the tourism side, we are able to mitigate the negative impact of this, as well as to try to explore ways that we can shield our frontline tourism workers, whose livelihoods may be affected,” Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco told the members of the press at the sidelines of Tourism Stakeholders’ Summit last Wednesday.

The tourism chief said that as of Wednesday, she was informed that there are 61 sites that are affected by the oil spill Oriental Mindoro including several beach resorts.

Oil spill's reach so far

In its initial report last March 6, the DOT reported that the oil spill has affected several Marine Protected Areas in the Municipality of Pola in Oriental Mindoro. This included the KingFisher Reserve, St. John the Baptist Marine Sanctuary, Song of the Sea Fish Sanctuary, Stella Mariz Fish Sanctuary, Bacawan Fish Sanctuary, St. Peter the Rock Fish Sanctuary, and the San Isidro Labrador Fish Sanctuary.

It added that beach resorts such as Bihiya Beach, 3 Cottage, Long Beach K. I, Aguada Beach Resort, Oloroso Beach Resort, Munting Buhangin Tagumpay Beach Resort, and Buhay na Tubig White Beach Resort in Oriental Mindoro have also been affected by the oil spill.

According to DOT, the oil spill’s effect also reached the Municipality of Caluya in the Province of Antique, particularly along the shorelines of Sitio Sabang, Barangay Tinogbo, Liwagao Island, Barangay Sibolo, and Sitio Tambak in Barangay Semirara.

In view of this, the LGUs and PCG with support from the private sector who provided Personal Protective Equipment have already conducted clean-ups to further prevent the damage of the oil spill.

Nearby tourist destinations such as Boracay in Malay, Aklan is already preparing for the possibility of the effects of the oil spillage reaching the island’s coastal area.

“The DOT notes with seriousness the oil spill incident and its grave impact on the tourism industry, including disruptions in the livelihood of the affected communities, tourism-dependent businesses, and recreational activities," Frasco said in a statement last March 6.

"Scuba diving, beach, and cruise tourism depend on the region’s coastal resources, and are also its major tourism products. If unmitigated, the oil spill can have adverse impacts on three of the world-class dive destinations in the Philippines, specifically the Verde Island passage and Apo Reef in Mindoro, and Coron’s World War II Wrecks and Philippine Dugong," she added.

As part of the preventive measures in anticipation of oil spillage, the PCG and the Malay Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO) are continuously conducting roving and monitoring along the coasts of Boracay, and have prepositioned oil slick booms in strategic areas around the island.

The DOT Western Visayas Office is also actively coordinating with the Malay LGU for potential assistance to tourists in Boracay in anticipation of the oil spillage.

Aside from Boracay, Frasco said the cruise tourism in the region could also be affected by the oil spill. At least 34 cruise ships are expected to call in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan for the year.

The DOT also said it is coordinating with the officers of the Tubbataha Management Office who are monitoring the situation in Tubbataha Reef, which is along the Municipality of Cagayancillo in Palawan for possible effects of the oil spill.

Meanwhile, the DOT said that no tourist destinations in the municipalities of Naujan, Victoria, and Pinamalayan in Oriental Mindoro have been affected the oil spill as of March 6. The Naujan Lake, a major tourist attraction, has no connection with the ocean and will not be affected by the oil spill.

Puerto Galera open for business

As of March 15, DOT-MIMAROPA Regional Director Zenny Cinco Pallugna and Municipal Mayor Rocky Ilagan also said Puerto remains oil spill-free.

"The heart and soul of our tourism attraction in Oriental Mindoro is Puerto Galera and we are still open for business,” Pallugna said.

Ilagan also said that despite the low possibility of the oil spill reaching its municipal waters, they have already directed the concerned departments and barangays to manage the monitoring and mitigation activities.

“Puerto Galera remains oil spill free but we are vigilant with all the possibilities and maintain our proactive stance. Let us continue to work as one for our biosphere reserve, our paradise, our home,” Ilagan said.

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