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Guimaras tourism still reeling from effects of oil spill

August 9, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The News Today, Aug. 9, 2007

GUIMARAS ISLAND — The tourism industry of Guimaras is still reeling from the effects of the Petron oil spill a year after the disaster ravaged the island’s natural resources.

Tourism, one of the pillars of the local economy, has continuously slumped after the oil spill despite a campaign to reverse the negative impact of the disaster on the industry.

Tourist arrivals went down from 181,915 in 2005 to 172,985 last year, based on data from the provincial tourism office.

Charry Galia, provincial economic and development officer, said the decrease is still conservative because the tourism figures for last year included thousands of volunteers, scientists, researchers and all other personnel involved in the containment and clean up operations who flocked to the island.

The decline continued this year with only 87,094 tourists going to the island from January to June. This is a drop from the 108,926 visitors recorded for the same period in 2005 and 91,667 in 2006.

The decline in visitors pushed earnings from tourism down by P37.5 million from P204,312,500 in 2005 to P166,810,100 last year.

The Department of Tourism had initially placed losses incurred by resort owners two weeks after the oil spill at around P3.54 million in canceled bookings and lost opportunity.

While tourism officials had said that only 20 percent of the beach tourism was affected by the oil spill, other destinations on the island also suffered because of the impression that the entire island had been contaminated by the oil sludge.

A rapid assessment report conducted by a multi-agency team said 25 tourism sites, including 11 beach resorts, were directly affected by the oil spill while another 33 were indirectly affected.

Fishing, the main livelihood of most residents has also failed to return to pre-oil spill levels even as fisherfolks have resumed their fishing activities.

Many affected residents especially in the worst affected areas have not recovered from the loss of their livelihood and income, said Galia.

Galia said fish catch is still lower than before the oil spill especially in areas where mangroves were heavily contaminated by bunker oil.

She said the rejection of International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, a London-based inter-governmental agency that indemnifies victims of oil spill pollution, of the overwhelming number of second batch claimants has also affected legitimate claimants who have no means of recovering their livelihood.

Galia said that out of the 125,614 claimants for the second batch, only 134 have been considered for payment by the IOPC. The rest were rejected for various reasons because the claimants were, among other reasons, below 18 years old, not residents of Guimaras, used fictitious names or were not engaged in fishing activities.

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