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Resort owner girds for long legal battle

October 7, 2006

By MONTESA GRIÑO
Panay News, Oct. 7, 2006

NAGARAO Island, Guimaras – German Martin Stummer, operator of this island resort, said he is ready for what he expects to be a long legal battle against Petron Corp. and the owner of sunken Solar 1 tanker. He plans to sue them for P100 million because of the oil spill they triggered.

He said the oil spill has destroyed Nagarao Island where he had invested millions of pesos to develop for the past 27 years.

But Stummer said he is not only worried of his past investments in the island. An international tour operator for 40 years now, he said the oil spill will also surely affect the future (re: tourism potential) of Nagarao for years to come.

“The news of the Guimaras oil spill has spread worldwide by print media, TV and the internet. The world has many beautiful places for tourists. Some 100,000 tropical islands around the globe welcome tourists. Why should they go to an island affected by an oil spill,” asked Stummer, an adventurer who had lived and worked in several continents of the globe.

According to Stummer, tourists will never go to a place for as long as they remember that there was an oil spill there.

And even if the damage wrought by the oil spill had been repaired, Stummer said it would be very hard to regain the trust of tourists back.

Nagarao was discovered by Stummer way back in the 1970s. He then operated adventure tours for Germans and other wealthy Europeans in cooperation with Philippine Airlines (PAL) and the Philippine Ministry of Tourism. Every tour had to conclude with an island hopping adventure.

In 1979, Stummer and his first wife Gliceria Mosquera of Pototan, Iloilo acquired rights on Nagarao Island. He used his savings to develop the island resort. He still keeps a certificate from the Bureau of Domestic Trade showing his initial investment of P4 million (based on today’s exchange rate, this is now roughly P40 million).

Next, he set up an office in Munich, Germany to promote Guimaras and Nagarao Island. The resort opened in December 1979 and Stummer maintained his office in Germany until the year 1995. Every year, Stummer said, he infused P1.2 million to maintain this office, or a grand total of around P20 million by now.

Most of Nagarao’s clients are wealthy eco-tourists who love to explore the beautiful corals around Nagarao, the nearby Taklong Island marine sanctuary, Tando, the Toyo reef and other nearby spots that have been badly damaged by the oil spill.

Stummer believes that Nagarao will not survive the coming years, because it would not be able to attract his eco-minded clientele from Europe anymore. He said they told him they will stay away from Nagarao and Guimaras.

By now, Stummer said he had invested P100,000 in the island. This he has to write off. But he will not give up without a fight even if it will take years to fight the owners of Solar I, Petron and their shareholders from Saudi Arabia and the USA, the Saudi-Aramco Oil Corporation.

“They have destroyed the future of Guimaras and its people. Let them shoulder the financial claims,” Stummer said.

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