PUERTO GALERA, Oriental Mindoro—A Dutch expatriate, who posted on his Facebook (FB) page pictures of uncollected plastic bags of garbage along a major shoreline here, was declared a “persona non grata” by the Sangguniang Bayan of this resort town Wednesday.
Keese Koornstra, 61, of northern Holland, also labelled this resort town as “Puerto Basura” in his internet page getting the ire of Puerto Galera municipal officials, headed by Mayor Hubbert Christopher A. Dolor.
The piles of uncollected garbage contained in black plastic bags, seen with worms crawling on them, were captioned: “PUERTO BASURA – This is the situation in White Beach right now! After I posted 2 months ago pictures of the garbage along the road, only once a week the garbage is collected. Come on people of Puerto Galera and Department of Health, this is unacceptable,” Koornstra posted in his FB account.”
White Beach a favorite swimming destination of local and foreign tourists especially during the summer season.
But the captain of Barangay San Isidro where the beach is located, Eleno Candava, does not agree with the Sangguian’s decision. “I think there is no basis for the declaration. Is it a crime to point out what is happening to Puerto Galera?”
Since the Dutchman’s post, the shorelines of White Beach have been cleared of garbage piles and cleaned up by the municipal government, Candava said.
Vice-Mayor Robinhood D. Ylagan refused to participate in the crafting of the resolution, saying that “declaring a person a persona non-grata is a serious matter that needs a thorough investigation, the reason why such happened, whether or not there’s truth to the issue.”
Ylagan saw the “collapse of Puerto Galera’s tourism industry” if the local government “continues to indiscriminately declare foreign residents and productive visitors who are contributing much of their environmental and social concern, through constructive comments, to the development of Puerto Galera tourism by ostracizing them as unwelcome, unacceptable and personas non-grata.”
The Vice-Mayor also expressed fears that the declaration will only send wrong signals to foreign investors as a climate of fear has already been created among them. “May our foreign friends not pull out their investments from Puerto Galera,” he added.
Koornstra was credited by residents and local business owners for his environmental concern by first reporting the presence of proposed P66-million landfill and dump project in sitio Lapantay, Bgy. Villaflor.
The dump project will displace 47 Mangyan families and threaten to contaminate the purity of the spring waters flowing into the 400-foot Tamaraw Falls.
Koornstra told The Standard he was surprised by the municipal resolution. “Maybe, declaring me as unwelcome or unacceptable person is a surprise. Or just a joke or a kind of harassment or intimidation to stop me from saying it,” he said.
Koornstra has sailed around the world twice in his own yacht. “Out of the 68 countries I travelled, I chose the Philippines to live in permanently. And I chose Puerto Galera to stay,” Koornstra said.
Before the resolution was passed declaring him as a “person non-grata,” Koornstra has a pending project proposal with the municipal government for the construction of a giant replica of a Spanish galleon in the shorelines of Bgy. Minolo.
The Puerto Galera Business and Tourism Entrepreneurs Association (PGBTEA), headed by Romeo A. Roxas, and other groups also expressed their support for Koornstra, saying the decision is unfair. “He is a nice-person and a law-abiding citizen and he was just expressing his constructive comments on the present state of the environment of Puerto Galera.”
Other groups vouching for Koornstra are the San Isidro Beach Owners Association, headed by Joel de Veyra, also chairman of the committee on tourism, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Oriental Mindoro chapter; the Biblical Apostolate of Puerto Galera, led by Dr. Jioleta Mendoza, also a resort owner, and the PGBTEA , led by Felix Manalo, of Manalo’s Lodge and Restaurant, the association’s vice-president.