Bicol wants feeding here halted: Osloab whale shark tours in jeopardy
(The Freeman) - June 17, 2013 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Regional Development Council in Central Visayas is set to come up with its position on the whale shark feeding in Oslob, Cebu following request of RDC-Bicol to stop the activity.

The Economic Development Committee of the RDC-7 has already come up with some recommendations subject for approval during the full council meeting on Thursday.

The EDC recommended to continue the whale shark project and the DENR-BFAR studies on the feeding of the whale shark, and the strict implementation of the regulations and proper management of the interaction activities.

EDC members also agreed to work together in a convergence group to assist the local government of Oslob in managing the whale shark project and its benefits.    It will look into the social, economic, environmental and ecological impact of the whale shark activities in Oslob.

RDC Bicol chairman, Albay Governor Joey Salceda, earlier wrote the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Tourism requesting support for its position to stop the feeding of whale sharks in Oslob.

The position paper stated that the whale shark project in Donsol, Sorsogon, started out “correctly” in a management sense because the LGU had partnered with the UNDP and the WWF for a responsible Butanding Ecotourism Project.

RDC Bicol had expressed concern that the Oslob whale shark feeding, and the negative reactions of various environmentalists of international organizations, might hurt the good practice of the Donsol whale shark project.

This prompted DOT-7 regional director Rowena Montecillo to call the attention of the EDC on the position of RDC Bicol.

The DOT-7 has not put the Oslob whale shark experience in its official tourism promotion itinerary, however, it has assisted Oslob through trainings and a study visit to the Donsol Sorsogon whale shark project to observe and emulate good management practices for whale shark viewing.

During the EDC meeting last month, some members raised observations that the significant pros for the Oslob whale shark interaction are economic in nature.

They said that the P35 million recorded for nine months of operation cannot be ignored by the EDC.

Others also noted that the cons posed by RDC Bicol may just be the result of a miscommunication because what they take as “feeding” is actually only “luring”.

There were suggestions to establish an academe/science research link with UP Marine Institute and international organizations, look at the short term and long-term impact of whale shark feeding, limit visitors in a day; find out good practices and proper procedures needed similar to the scientific approach in Donsol and to establish a management council.

During the said meeting, there were upsides being pointed out in the Oslob project relative to the RDC Bicol position such that the whale sharks are in their natural habitat and are free to roam; they are not caged and fed in an aquarium as is done in other countries.

In Bicol the whale sharks are not fully fed, the interactions are limited to six viewers per whale shark, and viewing is only done from 6 a.m. up to noon.

Tagging shows the whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon, are not same whale sharks in Oslob. —/BRP (FREEMAN)

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