Batangas towns aim to balance tourism with coral reef protection

Mang Onad has been a tour boat operator for the past 20 years and industry has gotten greater since he began.

He rents out his boat, the Kilyawan, to scuba divers for around P3,000 per trip, taking them to sites in Mabini and Tingloy towns, in Batangas province.

He jacks up the rate slightly for guests who want to go to the southern side of Maricaban Island or to Verde Island, also in Batangas. That’s because Mabini, Tingloy, and Maricaban are among the most popular dive spots in the area. They are so popular among scuba diving that five or more dive boats can sometimes be seen in the same dive spot, above the capacity that an anchoring bouy can accommodate.

This leads to a problem. When the buoy can no longer accommodate a boat, the boatman will need to drop anchor, which then damages the corals. This destructive practice is expected to get worse as more people troop to the beach and the sea to beat the summer heat.

The Batangas Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office expect tourist arrivals to exceed 11 million this year. Mabini and Tingloy – about a three-hour drive from Manila by car (and a boat ride in the case of Tingloy) — are popular tourist destinations for residents of Metro Manila.

With the assistance of Pusod, an NGO supporting the area, community members have been mobilized to monitor the reef and its environs. Some were trained in free diving to help compile data and to orient and guide visitors on how to best appreciate the reef without causing damage.

Additionally, Tingloy was able to secure a grant for the construction of a Nature Conservation Center from Seacology, a small NGO based in Berkeley that provides funds for communities willing to care for their natural resource.

Plans are also afoot for the construction of a Materials Recovery Facility to support waste management efforts.

News source: Philippine Star

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