The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has received a major boost in its efforts to preserve Puerto Galera’s waters and marine resources with a donation of a prime property that will house the second and bigger sewage treatment plant (STP) near its famous White Beach.

The 1.14-hectare property located at Barangay San Isidro in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, was donated to the DENR by the heirs of the late National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin.

With the donation, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the agency could start next month the construction of the P194-million STP that is expected to be operational by the last quarter of 2020.

Around 2,000 square meters (sq. m.) of the donated property will be used for the STP while a sub-office of the DENR Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO) will be built in the remaining 9,444 sq.m.

Cimatu said that having a second STP and a DENR satellite office within Puerto Galera’s White Beach area would enhance efforts to preserve it and help avoid another Boracay or the temporary closure of a tourist destination because of environmental problems.

“Puerto Galera was ahead of Boracay in terms of gaining international attention as a major tourist destination and I commend its local executives and stakeholders for taking a proactive stance to prevent a Boracay-like scenario in Puerto Galera,” Cimatu said during the signing of the deed of donation held at the DENR Central Office in Quezon City last week.

Cimatu commended in particular the Locsin family and Puerto Galera Mayor Rocky Ilagan, who has exhibited serious commitment to protect and conserve Mindoro’s prime ecotourism destination.

Since embarking on a program to preserve the country’s top tourist destinations two years ago, Cimatu said it was his first time to witness “such a partnership between a mayor and a land owner coming together for a common environmental cause.”

Cimatu even told Ilagan that he would always set him as “an example for other mayors” due to his efforts to install STPs in his town.

Calling it “a dream come true,” Ilagan said the donated land was “at a very strategic place for a STP” with around 70 percent of Puerto Galera’s annual tourist arrivals going to the White Beach area.

Puerto Galera’s first STP, a P100-million facility located in Barangay Sabang, became fully operational last December. It has since been treating 1,750 cubic meters of uncontrolled wastewater per day.

Meanwhile, Leandro Locsin Jr., who signed the deed of donation, was all praises to Cimatu and the Duterte administration.

“We have a DENR Secretary who is willing to push programs which sometimes may not be so popular but, I think, would pay off in the long run and that’s why we have stepped up,” Locsin said.

“I think this is the one administration where we are comfortable with,” he added.

Puerto Galera’s second STP has a capacity of 3,000 cubic meters and will service residents and business establishments in Barangay San Isidro.

The facility will also treat sewage siphoned from houses in nearby barangays not connected to it.

The construction of the treatment plant also forms part of the local government’s effort to support DENR Task Force Puerto Galera, which was created as early as 2018 to spearhead the rehabilitation and strict enforcement of environmental laws in the famous island destination.###