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Cebu News

Village chief sees reef as source of income

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CEBU, Philippines - The chief of a coastal village in Barili town hopes the local government would declare their vast coral reef as a marine protected area (MPA) so that villagers could make a living by offering their services to divers.

Barangay chairman Ramil Jaca of Hilasgasan told The FREEMAN in an interview that for the past two years, there has been a plan to turn the more than 20-hectare reef into an MPA but this was shelved for unknown reasons.

Under the law, the town council, after complying with the requirements set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, can declare part of Hilasgasan as an MPA.

Jaca, however, said Vice Mayor Marlon Garcia, who was elected into office last May 2010, assured that the council would pass an ordinance on this matter.

Hilasgasan is about eight kilometers from the Barili town hall.

It is both a mountain and coastal village, hence, the main source of income is fishing and farming.

The village, which has a total population of 840, thrives on its meager annual income of P20,000 from clearances and permits so Jaca said turning part of their sea into an MPA “would greatly help.”

Once it becomes an MPA, the local government can then set fees for diving or snorkeling.

The law states that a portion of the income will go to the barangay.

Seeing the potential of the reef to become a world-class dive destination, Jaca said it would also provide livelihood to his people.

Divers will need boats to get them to the dive site, which is about one kilometer from the jump off area near the barangay hall.

Jaca also sees additional revenues for their village once the planned subdivision in a hill near the dive site would materialize.

The plan is reportedly dependent on the local government’s thrust in preserving its marine environment because it targets tourists who may want to live near a healthy marine sanctuary.

William Villaver, a resident marine biologist of the Knight-Stewards of the Sea,Inc. (Seaknights), said the council could name it an MPA but it would take three to five years to make it available to divers.

Villaver, who surveyed the area last Friday with the rest of the Seaknights, said that within that period, the government should stop all destructive human activities such as the common practice of cyanide and spear fishing.

He said it is a good thing that the corals are “recovering” from “evident” destruction brought about by cyanide fishing.

There may be less fishes in the deeper part compared to schools of juvenile and big fishes in areas 10 to 15 feet underwater that will easily multiply if protected, he said.

Apart from the variety of corals and fishes, this proposed dive site in Hilasgasan has other attractions, too, such as caves (some are two- to three-meter wide) and sea turtles. —/JPM (FREEMAN)

BARILI

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

HILASGASAN

JACA

KNIGHT-STEWARDS OF THE SEA

MPA

RAMIL JACA OF HILASGASAN

SEAKNIGHTS

VICE MAYOR MARLON GARCIA

VILLAVER

WILLIAM VILLAVER

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