PUERTO Galera will remain open for visitors, the tourism secretary said on Monday, but environment and health officials cautioned that water quality monitoring will continue as majority of samples taken from the coastal town failed standards following a February oil spill.  

“The most important thing is to ensure the continued viability of Puerto Galera as a tourist destination,Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco said at a livestreamed Palace briefing on Tuesday.  

She cited that Puerto Galeras international tourism receipts in 2022 reached P500 million, and the industry accounts for 85% of the local economy. 

She added that for domestic tourists, Puerto Galera, plus our other regional destinations, have reported in excess of their targets.”  

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Health (DoH), meanwhile, issued a joint statement Tuesday saying only nine out of 35 sampling stations in Puerto Galera passed the standards on water quality testing.  

The nine areas that passed the water quality guidelines were: Small Lalaguna and Big Lalaguna Shoreline, Balete, Central Sabang Shoreline, Coco Beach, Batangas Channel, Paniquian, Balatero, and West San Isidro Bay.  

The remaining over and above the nine, means failure in our parameters. If we will average out, this means the areas are really contaminated,Environment Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said in a separate media briefing.  

He clarified, however, that recent data are not conclusive whether the contaminants can be attributedto the oil spill as past testings also showed contamination in the water.   

Mr. Leones said national agencies, along with the Philippine Coast Guard and local government units, should undertake fingerprintingto determine if the contaminated areas were in fact caused by the oil spill.  

Despite coastal waters that seemed to be clear, he stressed that the visual appearance of the water does not necessarily mean that it is safe for recreational activities such as swimming.  

DENR Secretary Maria. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga told a separate Palace briefing that President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. ordered the department to continue monitoring the water and air quality levels in areas affected by the oil spill.  

The DoH also said that government agencies will continue monitoring the water contamination levels to warn residents if the water is unsafe for drinking.    

“The DoH and the DeNR remind the public to be cautious and seek support from local authorities for concerns and assistance,” it said. 

Ms. Frasco said the joint statement implies that Puerto Galera tourism continues to be open as there has been no direct attribution in terms of the direct source of the findings, considering the presence of human and economic activities in Puerto Galera.”  

She said 11,000 tourism workers could lose their jobs if Puerto Galera is closed to visitors.    

The industry could lose P5.4 million per day if water activities are banned in affected areas, she added.   

In a separate briefing, Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito A. Dolor said he has not imposed swimming and fishing bans on Puerto Galera despite the poor results of recent water quality tests. 

Ms. Frasco said the provincial office has reported that Oriental Mindoro has incurred over P900 million in losses due to the oil spill.  

The tanker MT Princess Empress, which was carrying 800,000 liters of fuel, sank off the waters of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro in late February.    

The impact of the spill on marine resources is still being analyzed, Mr. Leones said.   

At the moment, we are definitely undermanned and definitely we need support in terms of technology,said Ms. Yulo-Loyzaga. John Victor D. Ordoñez and Sheldeen Joy Talavera