Dutchman banned from Puerto Galera for highlighting trash problem

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A Dutchman has been declared ‘persona non grata’ after he posted photographs on Facebook of uncollected garbage along the shoreline in Puerto Galera.

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The resort town’s Sanggunian Bayan has declared him as ‘unwelcome’ after he tagged the town as “Puerto Basura”. Keese Koornstra, aged 61, posted the images and derogatory statement, upsetting the pride factor of the beach town.

Koornstra posted the caption: “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.”

Mayor Hubber Christopher Dolor and his municipal heads were offended by the comment.

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However, recently the Philippines has been named as the fourth worst offender when it comes to ocean polluting and has been listed as one of the 50 biggest environmental offenders in the world.

The garbage has since been removed from the shoreline of Puerto Galera.

The vice mayor of the town said he wanted nothing to do with the declaration against Mr Koornstra, saying “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.”

Added that the “collapse of Puerto Galera’s tourism industry”could happen 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 would only send wrong signals to foreign investors as a climate of fear had already been created among them. “May our foreign friends not pull out their investments from Puerto Galera,” he added.

The situation appears to not have started with the photographs of the uncollected garbage for Mr Koornstra. The Dutchman was also credited for reporting and getting national attention to the proposed 66-million peso landfill project which will displace 47 Mangyan families and threatens to contaminate the springs which flow into Tamaraw Falls.

Mr Koonstra, in an interview with The Manila Standard, was surprised by the resolution, saying: “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.”

Mr Koornstra, who has twice sailed around the world in his yacht added: “Out of the 68 countries I travelled, I chose the Philippines to live in permanently. And I chose Puerto Galera to stay.”

Numerous businesses are vouching for Mr Koonstra and oppose any charges against him. He also has a pending project proposal in Puerto Galera to construct a replica Spanish galleon on the shore of Barangay Minolo.

The Puerto Galera Business and Tourism Entrepreneurs Association, headed by Romeo Roxas, and other groups, also expressed their support for Mr 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.”

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