MANILA — The local government of Puerto Galera on Saturday said it would maintain the status quo and wait for the advice of national agencies amid conflicting reports on the waters of the popular tourist destination.
In a statement, the town's mayor Rocky Ilagan said he would rather wait for official positions from the Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to verify data on the areas affected by the oil spill caused by the Feb. 23 sinking of oil tanker MT Princess Empress.
Ilagan cited an April 15 report of the Office of Civil Defense indicating that Puerto Galera was "not included in the areas affected by the oil spill."
This was contrary to pronouncements made by Oriental Mindoro Governor Bonz Dolor, who had said that Puerto Galera and its nearby areas failed 4 consecutive water tests, deeming them unsafe for swimming and other water activities.
Dolor, however, refused to comment when asked if local officials in Puerto Galera would be held liable if they allowed tourists and residents to swim in their waters despite the reported presence of grease.
Ilagan said he would rather wait for official positions on the matter before taking action, noting that a "hasty and premature reaction from the LGU... may have an adverse effect on the general welfare of our people."
The mayor also cited DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who had said that her office was not keen on imposing a swimming ban in the town's waters and the tests conducted were not conclusive.
“Right now, ang affected pa lang naman at ang tine-test natin ay yung nasa shorelines na naapektuhan ng oil spill... Puerto Galera is not among those pero nagkaroon sila ng random sampling ng test across the different areas and Puerto Galera has been included, " Vergeire said Saturday.
(Right now, the only affected areas were the ones we tested, which were along the shorelines hit by the oil spill... Puerto Galera is not among those but they did include the town when they did random sampling across different areas.)
"Hindi pa conclusive kaya hindi pa natin masasabi," she added.
(It's not yet conclusive that's why we cannot say anything yet.)
Ilagan had earlier objected to placing the entire province under a state of calamity.
The OCD report also said 84 barangays across 10 towns were affected by the oil spill.
More than 178,000 people—or 37,871 families—have been affected by the spill more than a month since sinking of the ill-fated oil tanker in the Tablas Strait.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources earlier said that damage and losses due to the oil spill is nearing the P1-billion mark.