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Cebu News

Rehab for Lagundi starts

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CEBU, Philippines - More than a year after it was abandoned following the tragic incident with a Chinese cargo ship, a massive rehabilitation is now being started for Lagundi Reef, Talisay City’s three-hectare marine protected area.

“What a sad state. But with the help of various environmental groups and people’s organizations, we hope to see it cleaned and rehabilitated right away,” said City Councilor Bernard Odilao Jr. after seeing the video of the underwater reef of which corals have now been covered with fishing nets.

The video was taken by divers of environmental group “Knight-Stewards of the Sea, Inc.” (the Seaknights) during its recent dive to the reef. The video shows a wide area of the coral garden covered by fishing nets.

Alfie Fernandez, master diver of the Seaknights, believes the nets were left behind by commercial fishing boats that are believed to still fish in the area despite the fact that it is a no-fishing ground. The absence of marine buoys or floaters and guards have left Lagundi Reef vulnerable to all kinds of fishing activities, he said. Fernandez said there used to be a guardhouse there but was destroyed by last year’s typhoon.

It was in 2006 when the city started rehabilitating Lagundi Reef, which was once a victim of illegal fishing methods.

The effort saw some changes in the marine lives underwater, but before the city could officially open it to divers, elements destroyed the floaters there, which delineate the entire reef from the fishing grounds, that in March 5, 2009, a clueless MV Majuro which passed by the area, rammed the shallow portion of the reef.

In a cleanup dive last Tuesday, the Seaknights led by its vice president Fr. Charlie Orobia, OAR, removed a 38.5 feet by 5.5 feet fishing net from the reef itself.

Orobia said there are still several nets down there, and they hope to dive back anytime soon.

Fernandez said the nets have to be removed as soon as possible as the corals underneath them have started to die. The corals, he explained, should be directly exposed to the sun otherwise they will perish.

Fernandez however assured that the Seaknights, which is a group of licensed divers, will be back to the reef, especially that they also noticed “an outbreak” of crown of thorns (COTS) in the area.

In that cleanup dive, 86 COTs, considered a menace in a reef of corals once they grow beyond the normal number, were collected by Fernandez’ group within the reef’s 300 square-meter length.

He said it is considered an outbreak if an area of one hectare has already more than 30 COTs.

“I am really thankful to Seaknights sa pagpakabana sa advocacy sa Talisay City to protect and conserve and to rehabilitate our marine protected areas,” said Odilao.

The newly reelected city councilor, who hopes to chair both the council committees on Environment and Tourism in the new city council, said a series of cleanups are already being set for Lagundi.

The city will allocate P300,000 per year for the reef’s upkeep.

Meanwhile, it is also now back in the negotiating table with MV Majuro to demand for compensation for the rehabilitation of the reef. Or, it may file a damage suit of P61 million for that last March 5, 2009 tragedy, which killed several corals and a number of endangered species there.   (FREEMAN NEWS)

ALFIE FERNANDEZ

CHARLIE OROBIA

CITY

CITY COUNCILOR BERNARD ODILAO JR.

ENVIRONMENT AND TOURISM

FERNANDEZ

FISHING

LAGUNDI REEF

REEF

SEAKNIGHTS

TALISAY CITY

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