GALERA GRABS THE GOLD
By Bernardo V. Lopez - Business World
|Puerto Galera has recently hit the international tourism limelight, given the "The Most Beautiful Bay in the World" award for 2005, following its presentation in Agadir, Morocco last November 2004. Puerto Galera is the 32nd bay worldwide to get the award, and the third in Southeast Asia after Nha Trang Bay and Along Bay in Vietnam.
The Europe-based and UNESCO-supported organization The Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club, of which Puerto Galera is now the newest member, has four pillars of advocacy--"protection, enhancement,
promotion, commitment" of prime bays worldwide "in an effort to maintain the balance between the economic development and the conservation of natural heritage, serving as models for the rest of the world." The norms for selection revolve around "richness and diversity." The club has its headquarters in Vannes, France.
Hubert d'Aboville, a French expatriate married to Filipino Ara Valenzuela, and Puerto Galera councilor Danny Enriquez, representing Mayor Teo Atienza and the Puerto Galera people, are now in Nha Trang Bay in Vietnam to receive the award on behalf of the Philippines. Earlier commisioned by Atienza and the Puerto Galera Sangguniang Bayan, d'Aboville made the Power Point presentation about Puerto Galera in Agadir which awed the judges. He heads the Together-Ensemble foundation which has been active in disaster relief during the Mt. Pinatubo eruption and in the recent floods in typhoon-ravaged Real and Infanta Quezon.
D'Aboville recently sat down with Sen. Dick Gordon, the former
Tourism secretary and Ace Durano, the current Tourism secretary, to map out a grand strategy to exploit the award for national tourism development in cooperation with public and private sectors, and local and national agencies.
Part of the strategy involves the organization of a private sector-based multisectoral organization to manage Puerto Galera Bay befitting it as a member of the prestigious club, and to support local government in its tourism thrust. A grand meeting is scheduled on May 8 in Puerto Galera, to be hosted by d'Aboville and other locals, which would include resort and restaurant owners, prominent families such as the Locsins, European expatriates, school and Church representatives, diplomats, national and local media, and tourism and local government officials, headed by Gordon, Durano and Atienza.
Critical to the role of this organization is to address environmental concerns, particularly, waste management which must be a partner of tourism development, d'Aboville said. Effective waste management is a challenge to tourism development. "To be effective and sustainable, it must be community-based and must involve all sectors. Coordination at all levels is critical," he added.
The award is seen as the second "tourism explosion" for Puerto Galera, the first being at its birth in the early '60s, when it was "discovered" by European backpackers in search of a paradise in the East. By word of mouth, the popularity of Puerto Galera's pristine beaches spread like wildfire among the so-called counterculture elements in Europe even when it had no electricity and only a handful of beach huts. Ironically, it was precisely this image of being "untouched," its rustic air and exotic beaches, that attracted foreigners to the marine sanctuary. It was a sanctuary from an ever shrinking planet.
The first "explosion" came after an article and photographs of a German backpacker appeared in a German magazine with one of the largest circulation in Europe. This catapulted Puerto Galera into the consciousness of every European household, from Scandinavia to Greece, fueling the tourism exodus from the West. The backpackers were followed by expatriates who mingled with the locals to develop better cottages and restaurants. Overnight, its tourism infrastructure developed. A decade after, with the rise of Boracay as rival, there was a lull as Puerto Galera passed through the eye of the tourism storm.
Now, in its second "explosion" due to the award, Puerto Galera may not necessarily rival, but complement Boracay as its "twin" prime tourism destination in the Philippines. Whereas Boracay has one vast panoramic beach of talc-fine snow-white sand, Puerto Galera has dozens of protected coves with ancient coral gardens and rare marine species. It also has a rich history, being along the trade corridor of the Manila-Acapulco galleons, and being an ancient port where Chinese traders bartered Ming vases for native gold since