Department of Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco went scuba diving in Puerto Galera town, a popular dive spot in Oriental Mindoro, on Wednesday to show support for the tropical paradise which remains open for tourism.
Frasco, who sits as chair of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, said the dive site continues to be unaffected by the oil spill caused by the sunken tanker MT Princess Empire off the coast of Oriental Mindoro last February.
“Notwithstanding the difficulties, the challenges, and the calamities this province has and is facing, the Philippines, including Puerto Galera and Mindoro continues to be a beautiful tourist destination,” she said.
In an interview with the media, she said the visit aimed to encourage more tourists to continue visiting Puerto Galera.
“Napakaganda ng Puerto Galera [Puerto Galera is beautiful]. We are very hopeful that the message is sent across to everyone that they should come and visit Puerto Galera,” she said.
Apart from its white beach, Puerto Galera is famous for its scuba diving spots, offering diving veterans and even enthusiasts a diverse view of the riches of the sea — corals and other marine life and even shipwrecks.
Local tourism data showed that from April 3 to 10 this year, a total of 18,757 tourists visited Puerto Galera, of which the top source of foreign markets are China, South Korea, the US, Japan and Germany.
Puerto Galera Mayor Rocky Ilagan, who joined Frasco in the diving activity, thanked the department for the visit, saying Frasco was the first Tourism secretary to set foot there since 2003.
While the town is still oil slick-free, there are at least 66 tourist attractions that have been affected by the oil spill and over 1,400 tourism workers affected.
Aid for tourism workers
Frasco also distributed certificate of tourism grants to leaders of community-based sustainable tourism organizations from the various local government units of Oriental Mindoro.
The certificate entitles the organization to tourism training interventions with starter kits for alternative livelihoods while they cannot work due to the oil spill.
“We are here to give certificate of training grants to our tourism workers to be able to offer them alternative livelihood that is not necessarily related to their present occupation but may offer work in the tourism industry nevertheless. And that includes agri-tourism as well as other skills related to tourism offerings, the point is that we continue to push for livelihood and employment under the Marcos administration through tourism,” she said.
The DOT will provide training programs to the affected tourism workers in the municipalities of Gloria, Pinamalayan, Naujan, San Teodoro, Pola, Bulalacao, Mansalay, and Calapan City. The topics include farm tourism, urban farming, tourism micro-retail, beadwork and lei making, food tourism, kulinarya training, health and wellness tourism, hilot training and basic haircutting training.
Frasco also committed funding qualified tourism-related projects through the Tourism Infrastructure and Economic Zone Authority (TIEZA) for each of the affected municipalities.
“Magbibigay po tayo ng [We will provide] 2 million pesos for each affected LGU for any tourism-related project that will fall under the guidelines of the financial assistance of TIEZA,” she said. (PNA)