In Bais City, Manjuyod town; Dolphin-watching stopped
Judy Flores Partlow (The Freeman) - March 31, 2017 - 12:00am

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — The famous dolphin- and whale-watching tours in Bais City and Manjuyod in Negros Oriental have stopped for almost a week now due to the non-registration of boats with the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

Bais City Legal Officer Lloyd Joseph Elmaco confirmed this Wednesday as more than 100 boat operators alone in that city have stopped operating. The same is true in nearby Manjuyod where boat operators are also in the same business, which is one of the province’s tourism attractions, he said.

Tours were cancelled when the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) warned boat operators to sail at their own risk and be apprehended and penalized.

Last week, the Coast Guard Station in Dumaguete City, headed by Lieutenant Junior Grade Donna Liza Ramacho, met with boat operators in a dialogue held in Bais City on the required registration of their vessels with the MARINA.

Ramacho clarified that they are just doing their jobs. She said her hands are “tied” and there is nothing she can do but to enforce the law as mandated. She said all boats that could not comply with MARINA requirements in other parts of the province are also included in the Coast Guard’s enforcement of the law.

Operators have decried the immediate stoppage of the dolphin- and whale-watching tours, pointing out that they had to go to Cebu just to register their boats with the MARINA there, because the Negros Island Region (NIR), where Negros Oriental is a part of, does not have an office for the purpose. There are only two MARINA personnel assigned in Negros Oriental and both are based in Dumaguete City.

The MARINA, according to Elmaco, initially met with the boat operators to discuss the requirements and processes for registration of their vessels. He however described the requirements as “unreasonable” considering that these are the same requirements for small or large boats.

Until such time that the problem of non-registration of boats is addressed, Elmaco said he believes there will be no more dolphin- and whale-watching tours as the Coast Guard is continuously conducting maritime patrols.

The Bais City government had made a request with the MARINA in Region 7 for the conduct of mobile registration in Negros Oriental to serve the needs of the affected boat operators, Elmaco said.

Initially, the date was set sometime in the first week of April but Elmaco believed this might not be possible considering the long list of paper work and other requirements by MARINA. The agency had said it will come to Negros when the boat operators are ready with the requirements to speed up the registration process, he said.

The local government of Bais City, meanwhile, said it had nothing to do with the stoppage of the dolphin- and whale-watching tours but they understood that the Coast Guard was just doing their job in implementing the law.

Meanwhile, the Boat Operators Association For Tourism Services in Bais City, headed by Ricky Andaya Soler, on March 26 wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the problem. The group is seeking from Duterte for a moratorium on the MARINA requirement and to allow its members to operate on a temporary permit, pending the final registration process. (FREEMAN)  

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