Read This Before Going To Puerto Galera

Written by Dezza, 22 September 2019.

Have you been to Puerto Galera before? Whether you have or you haven’t you need to read this article for some very important changes that have been made to this island paradise. 

Puerto Galera is one of the best Philippines destinations which attracts around two million tourists every year, but that boom in tourism has not been well received by the government.

While the Environment Usage Fee of P50 from each visitor has helped to boost the income of the municipality, there are concerns that tourism could be damaging reefs and wildlife.

The government is making a lot of changes to transport and resort operations in Puerto Galera. What do those changes mean for tourists? Will they cause chaos or will they benefit visitors? Is now a good time to visit?

Read on to learn about the government’s environmental measures and what they mean for you.

New Controls Limiting Boat Traffic

Over the course of this year, there have been some new restrictions put on travel in the area.

Wooden hulled private boats are banned from carrying passengers, except in local waters close to shore, as they are no longer considered safe enough to transport people, particularly in rougher weather.  

In addition, in order to better protect beaches such as Sabang and White Beach, the number of ports where new public ferries (so-called Fastcraft and “Roll On Roll Off – ROROs) can enter Puerto Galera has been reduced to just Muelle and Balatero.

Therefore, it is no longer possible to take an old-style private banca from the Batangas area directly to a resort or vice versa.

However, the new public ferries going back and forth from Batangas to Muelle and Balatero are much safer. Soon there will be some great quality ferries such as the Oceanjet Fast Ferry which will be operating very soon. You can check the schedule here.

In addition, there are new “water taxi” services available, such as Mindoro Sprinter, which you can take you to and from the Batangas Port area straight to Small La Laguna or Sabang Beach for only P800 per person at the time of writing.

Mindoro Sprinter can take up to 22 passengers and the journey across is only about 45 minutes.

The bottom line is that can’t take a private or public banca boat direct to your favourite resort, the replacement services are much safer and the water taxis are much faster.

Puerto Galera travel changes

Banca boats such as the one in this picture have been banned from Sabang Port in Puerto Galera which has created considerable inconvenience for a lot of travellers.

Resort Closures By the Government And New Taskforce

The clampdown does not just involve boat traffic. There was an executive order issued by the government, asking 14 establishments to leave the areas/resorts on easement zones in the White Beach and Sabang areas.

The businesses were given thirty days to comply with the orders and asked to remove the structures that were encroaching on the beaches.  

The businesses that were served notices range from resorts and hotels to restaurants and bars.

The majority of the affected businesses were on Barangay Sabang, but there were a couple of businesses in Barangay San Isidro that were affected by the easement notices.

The notices were a part of a clampdown that will also include warnings about permits, hazardous waste, solid waste segregation, pollution control, and other issues.

The government is concerned because of water quality testing done over the last few years, which has found some high fecal coliform contamination in the most built-up areas such as Sabang.

There is a fear that there is not sufficient local control in terms of wastewater disposal facilities, and that this, combined with overcrowding of structures, is something that could affect the environment and safety of the beaches in the area.

As a result, a new high-level task force, led by the Governor of Mindoro, has been established and has started doing a full review of the whole Puerto Galera area.

And in 2020, this is likely to lead to a Boracay style clean up of the whole Puerto Galera area, a move which would be welcomed by most local resorts and dive shops.

Tips for Stress-Free Travel

Puerto Galera is one of the best places in the Philippines and has traditionally been a great holiday destination.

However, those who had visited a couple of decades ago and then returned recently have commented that the area is quite built-up and ‘spoilt’ compared to the tranquil, picturesque beaches that they are used to from the 80s and 90s.

It is that unspoiled feel that the government is trying to get back. The ban on wooden-hulled (banca) boat operators may interfere with your travel plans since it means that there are far fewer companies that can transport people.

There are still a number of modern ferry operators in the area plus the new water taxi services, however, better and faster public services are now gradually replacing the older style ferries.

The restrictions on the resorts should be of benefit to tourists, rather than a hindrance since the goal of those restrictions is to clear up the clutter on the beaches.

If you want to go somewhere that is unspoiled, picturesque and peaceful, White Beach could be a good choice since there are limits to the size of the hotels and the types of activities that can take place near the beach.

Adjacent to White Beach there are some other smaller beaches that have attracted fewer resort developments, too, which means that you can get some quiet and some alone time if you need it.

Be aware, however, that those less developed resorts are less developed in terms of transport, too. For example, you can’t rely on a proper jetty so you might want to take your stuff in a backpack rather than a bulky suitcase.

The Sabang Peninsula is the area that is most built-up, and that is worst affected by these new restrictions, so if you want to avoid any potential disturbance as operators adjust, avoid the peninsula.

Puerto Galera travel changes

White Beach is arguably the best beach in Puerto Galera. This sensational beach is losing its charm due to overdevelopment.

Protecting the Area

White Beach has remained relatively untouched because private landowners own a lot of the land in the area and have been reluctant to allow it to be damaged.

Puerto Galera was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1977 by UNESCO, and it is supposed to adhere to a model of sustainable development.

UNESCO threatened to take that status off the municipality in 2017, because of some of the over-development that has happened.

The status was reaffirmed in July 2017, thanks to the government’s management plan.

While some of the measures seem extreme now and maybe worrying to those who had perhaps booked a holiday to Puerto Galera in advance, they should be celebrated.

The Philippine government is trying to protect Puerto Galera for generations to come.

By getting resort owners to stay on land and not litter beaches, they will achieve this. After all, who would want to visit a beach that is dirty and has waters dangerous to swim in?

Puerto Galera travel changes

Puerto Galera is in the Verde Island passage which is considered one of the most diverse marine environments in the world.

The new changes mean that tourists can travel on fast, safe craft that is accessible to more people and that is safer and more comfortable. Crews will be better trained, and the resorts will be cleaner and safer too.  

The tourism fee goes towards protecting the biodiversity in the area, and there are plans to have an airport built in the municipality too.

If you are planning a trip to Puerto Galera, don’t be put off by these recent bans and changes. One of the best resorts in Puerto Galera to see your way through this is Out Of The Blue, which is run by a good friend of mine.

If you are looking for a good place to stay with excellent food and great service, then I fully recommend Out Of The Blue.

They are also part owners of one of the new water taxi services, which makes it a lot easier, safer and faster for you to get from Batangas Port directly to the resort and vice versa.

MARINA is confident that having a range fast crafts and at least 3 ROROs, plus local water taxis, serving Puerto Galera will be enough to meet the needs of tourists and residents. They have based this opinion on extensive research.

The changes may take some getting used to for the travel operators, but they mean quieter, cleaner and nicer beaches for you as a visitor.

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