Oriental Mindoro is ready to welcome tourists after recovering from the impact of an oil spill that plagued the province in February, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Monday.
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco made the announcement as the DOT formally caps its alternative livelihood training program for more than 1,000 tourism workers who temporarily lost their jobs when MT Princess Empress sank off Naujan on February 28.
In an interview in Calapan City, Frasco said the DOT is now seeing a “resurgence of tourism” in the province.
“Oriental Mindoro is open and ready for tourism and I invite all our fellow Filipinos and our friends from all over the world to visit and enjoy all the wonderful destinations here as well as all the offerings that they have in terms of their heritage, their culture, and their dive sites,” she said.
To further drive tourism activities in the area, the DOT is planning to open its Tourist Rest Area (TRA) in Bongabong by 2024.
The agency will also put up a hyperbaric chamber and capitalize on Puerto Galera’s position as one of the country’s prime dive destinations.
“We feel that all the assets that are present in Oriental Mindoro— from their beaches, to their dive sites, to their caves, their mountainscapes, and the hinterlands and best of all the people of Oriental Mindoro, make for the perfect formula for success in terms of tourism destinations,” Frasco said.
Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor said the affected destinations opened to tourists as early as May 2023 or three months after MT Princess Empress capsized.
“(Recovery is) complete. The fastest in history. (In) three months, we opened already,” he told reporters in an interview.
“The water quality passed already the test of DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and the Philippine Coast Guard,” he added.
‘Alternative livelihood training’
The over 1,000 DOT beneficiaries are part of the 29 community-based sustainable tourism organizations across Naujan, Pola, Gloria, Pinamalayan, San Teodoro, Bulalacao, Roxas, Mansalay, and Calapan City— the nine coastal towns severely affected by the February spill.
Under DOT’s Bayanihan sa Bukas na May Pag-asa sa Turismo (BBMT) Alternative Livelihood Training, the workers gained various skills that they can still use with the continuation of tourism activities in the province.
Frasco said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has ensured that collaboration between the national government and local government was continuous to fast-track Oriental Mindoro’s recovery.
The DOT-funded training and workshops are as follow:
- Farm tourism: Urban Farming Training
- Tourism Micro Retail: Beadworks and Lei Making
- Food Tourism: Kulinarya Training
- Health and Wellness: Hilot Training and Basic Haircutting
The DOT conducted the last training session on June 27 for affected workers in Pola, and held the culminating activity and awarded the certificates this Oct. 23.
“(During the crisis) the 1,500 lost not only their jobs but also the opportunities,” Dolor said.
“Now they put not only the knowledge but also the assistance from DOT to practice. They have increased already their income and the alternative livelihood training given by DOT and DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) has produced more employment, more income to revitalize the tourism industry,” he added.
The sinking of MT Princess Empress spread some 800,000 liters of bunker oil and affected tourism workers due to the cancellation of aquatic activities in the areas hit.
The crisis drew international support, with the United States, South Korea, France and Japan stepping up to dispatch their experts and provide millions of pesos worth of equipment to contain the spill. (PNA)