Puerto Galera
Bad Governance

Under Construction

What happened to some tourist spots around Puerto Galera?

White Beach

In 1985, when I came to White Beach for the first time, it was a nice, clean and quiet place with few bamboo and nipa huts and some beach restaurants. The water was crystal clear and sail boats could be rented (what I did). And I met a lot of other backpackers who enjoyed staying there.

But today it's an ugly, dirty and loud place (more so during holidays). Instead of sailboats you can rent jet-skis and banana boats. The evenings are filled with the sound of ghetto blasters with different music at every other "beach bar". Walking straight along the "promenade" is impossible but going slalom around all the eateries and souvenir stalls. A police station is a ruin in the middle of the beach.

I would not call any of the eateries a restaurant nor name any accommodation a hotel or resort, except for the "Marco Vincente" but that is located way back in the hinterland. Trying to go from the beach to the road is going through a labyrinth: easy to get lost.

Even the tricycles don't get through because some narrow streets turn to foot paths half way, though some privately owned lots have their own access road (no trespassing). People arriving by boat from Batangas with big luggage and not staying at the beach (or wanted to go to the Tamaraw) are stuck.

That's all because the authorities or the local government forgot to implement any zoning laws or regulations just in time (didn't even have to cost much), not to mention any planning, or the politicians were sleeping or have been bribed.

The Filipinos, smelling big money from the tourists, gradually have occupied this place with their small businesses and constructions by squeezing into the next space available. And the smelling increased, because they also forgot to provide a sewer system and most sewage flows first onto the beach (which is not white anymore) and subsequently into the sea (not crystal clear anymore, either). And the more cramped this place gets, the more it spoils the environment.

Maybe I am biased as far as the eateries on the dirty beach are concerned, because in 2005 Joy and I ate there a poisonous poisson (a big red snapper) and we did get very sick for more than a week. Since then we didn't eat there anymore.

Today, I hardly see any Caucasians (Whites) at White Beach anymore, but more Koreans instead, though mainly Filipinos. It is almost the case like Boracay (which is not quite as bad, because the government had declared it as a prime tourist destination):

At first the backpackers discovered it
(always looking for unspoiled beaches),
then the first locals started to occupy it
(establishing all kinds of small businesses),
then the authorities neglected it
(maybe were trying to get a cheap piece for themselves),
then the Filipino tourists invaded it
(must be nice what the foreign backpackers like),
then more and more Filipinos coming from everywhere
and continued to occupy and invade the place,
and so on and so on until nobody will be coming anymore
(at least not the foreigners).

Ok, next comes another location (actually should be first of the worst):


All what has been said about White Beach is also valid for Sabang, even worse.

Eating breakfast at Eddy's Place is enriched by the fresh morning odour (as I overheard one guy saying) of the sewage flowing down underneath into Sabang Bay. Almost every twenty meters along the beach there is a grey and stinking rivulet seeping steadily down from and between houses towards the sea.

Eddy's Place is also just next to the "pier" for the boats arriving from and leaving to Batangas. But there is no pier. Make sure you wear short pants and no socks while jumping from the boat. During low tide, the passengers have to transfer from the outrigger into small row boats before they can reach the beach. In heavy sea it's the same but more likely to fall from the boat while stepping from one to the other.

Only local children are swimming in the dirty water between the many outrigger boats which are moored almost side by side.

There is no straight promenade either. Either you may jump over the dirt directly along the "beach" (not always possible at high tide), or follow a small concrete passage as the only thoroughfare beginning at the end of the main road coming from Puerto Galera and going zigzag and becoming narrower till it ends somewhere at the "beach" again to start and continue in the same fashion further on again the second time.

It is even more complicated in reality as the way I can describe it. Pedestrians have to jump out of the way of wheelbarrows reeling along the same path carrying supplies (and construction material) to resorts, restaurants and shops, because there is no back road either where trucks or even tricycles can be unloaded.

All the local living quarters are scattered all around and up the hill connected by a labyrinth of foot paths and staircases.

Ok, there are some good middle class resorts around, which are especially catering for the scuba-divers. I wonder where all the tax money generated from the tourists is flowing to (definitely not into the infrastructure) or whether it seeped away in some dubious channels.

I was told once that the road between Puerto Galera and Sabang has already been paid for three times during the past ten years or so, but it is still not finished (partially impassable during the rainy season, thus people have to go by boat). Even the portion of the main road in the middle of Sabang is a muddy experience after rain.


White Beach and Sabang are not the only places turned bad. There are many more examples I know of from my own experience.

Some people may say, it's all not that bad, and ... what makes me think that's all the politician's fault. Not all are bad or incompetent, of course, but if things like that turns bad then they are the only ones to be made accountable for, because only they can plan and initiate corrective actions by issuing and enforcing the right laws or ordinances. Who else? Do you want to blame the normal people thriving for a better life, even if it turns to the worse, but not foreseen by them?

One (the only one?) ordinance was shown to me when we once arrived from a daily trip to Batangas. Some official guy blocked our way and asked for a tourist fee of 0.80 Euro per person. So the authorities are greedy to get more money from the tourists but are not going to improve the infrastructure for the tourists (at least they haven't done anything up to now).

There are numerous cases in the Philippines which went wrong because of bad governance. Yes, it also happens in other countries, of course, but not as bad as here. You only have to read any of the many newspapers (in English) to learn about incompetence, blunder, graft and nepotism, especially among the politicians. The more powerful they are, the more the damage they can cause. The Philippines are rated the most corrupted country in Asia (competing with Indonesia).

I feel sorry for the normal Filipinos (not the lazybones) who are suffering under their governments in Manila and throughout the provinces down to their municipalities. Many are struggling to make both ends meet. More and more are trying their luck in other countries, where they are valued as hard workers. The remittances they are sending back home (10 billion USD or so a year) is not only helping their families but also their government to survive and to pay for the imports. There is much more to write about in general and in detail, but this will be another report "Living in the Philippines" someday.

Ok, at least you know a little bit about what to expect if you are planning to visit either White Beach or Sabang in the Puerto Galera area.

One last example of bad governance

Many years ago, the mayor of Manila at that time, Mr. Atienza, found that the Manila Bay Walk along the Roxas Boulevard (one of the nicest pieces of Manila) is a little bit boring and not attractive enough to the people and the tourists, so he decided it should get more lively especially in the evening. That's it.

After the first sidewalk cafés settled down he let the Bay Walk go its own course. The result then was that it almost became like White Beach today, even worse: too many eateries and vending stalls, every hundred meters a live band with ghetto blasters and more of these in between with different music (people living around already complained). Real "Bay Walk"-ing was not possible anymore, but meant going slalom around stalls, stages, tables, benches and chairs.

The next and now incumbent mayor, Mr. Lim, didn't like that at all and ordered, on short notice, that all constructions on the almost one mile long Bay Walk have to be removed or will be torn down.

Now the Bay Walk is boring again and almost empty of people in the evening.

Couldn't either mayor not allow only a few licensed sidewalk cafés every two hundred meters or so? I really would have loved that: watching the sunset over the bay (and the people passing by) while sitting at a table and have a drink (not only "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay").

© 2002 by WEW Tours