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Ah, our Bohol!

As this province's anthem goes: "This is the land I love, the land God gave to me. Bohol is "caressed by the sun, bathed by the sea, and kissed by the cool breeze, night and day."

Aside from being a valuable historical place (where the early heroes lived, where they wrought peace and where they bled) it is here where the marvelous cone-shaped hills rise and where the sweet kinampay grows.

The Bohol we know is "blessed with white sandy beaches, with rivers that water valleys, with seas that teem with fish and where cows graze on the plains."

You can imagine then our shock when we attended a celebration in Antique last May. We noticed a gaunt, sun-burnt woman appear and just as quickly disappear near the kitchen. The homeowner explained that the woman often came to beg for food for her family. They were fishers from Bohol and they are now considered among the poor in Antique.

Fast forward to October 25. In the presence of Governor Edgar Chatto at a workshop in Montebello, Cebu, a participant from Bohol shared to the audience that the price of fish has become very expensive in this province.

What happened to our Bohol? With much abundant supply provided with seas that teem with fish? Why is fish in Bohol very expensive now? The soaring prices of fish should also be studied and regulated soon, please.

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More importantly, why are small fisherfolk unable to catch fish even for their families and unable to sustain themselves in Bohol? Why do they seek better fishing grounds elsewhere when Bohol is located within the center of biodiversity and blessed with rich fishing grounds?

The sorry plight of the Bohol fisherfolk is an irony and undeserved condition for these Boholanos. More research should be done soonest to guide policymakers and officials to understand and to act to stem the factors affecting the lives of the fisherfolk of Bohol. Our paisanos deserve better and should feel proud to be Boholanos.

Sadly, the poverty of Bohol's fisherfolk is unnoticed amidst the special publicity and focus on tourism. To attract more tourists who are expected to boost Bohol's economy, an international airport will rise soon. If Panglao now no longer looks like the rest of the other naturally beautiful places of Bohol, expect more life-altering changes to Panglao's local residents and environment once the airport starts operation!

Is commercial tourism the way to growth for Bohol? Does this type of growth spell genuine and sustainable development in the lives of the Boholanos and is this policy protective of Bohol's rich and beautiful natural endowment?

Thankfully, Bohol appears to have still retained most of its natural, idyllic beauty. To us Boholanos, it remains the land that we love. Sadly, poverty is driving more Boholanos away from their own land. These Boholanos who have known their seas to be teeming with fish are unable to catch fish within the province and are now among this nation's hungry and poor.

We wonder if our Boholano farmers are still able to harvest basic food items, including the famous kinampay for their daily needs. We wonder how many more poor Boholanos are hidden, unattended, and ignored in favor of the tourists and visitors.

We hope poverty has not spread within our province. Again, this is for research to verify and confirm soonest, please. It is time, however, for all Boholanos to ensure that everyone is equally participating and benefitting from genuine, balanced, and sustainable development. Beyond the present policy for growth, we hope the land of the brave will continue to allow the Boholanos to live sustainably, in peace and in freedom, within a continuing resource-endowed environment.

cherryb_thefreeman@yahoo.com.

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