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The Death of Panglao Island
« on: January 09, 2010, 09:07:48 pm »
Anti-reclamation mounts protest
by Bohol Chronicle

Fishermen and villagers opposed to the ambitious plan to reclaim some 500-hectares off Panglao Bay bonded together to mount a strong protest against the multi-billion proposed reclamation project in the tourists' haven of Panglao.

Concerns raised by oppositors to the project have remained muted until the group organized into Panglaoanons Against Reclamation (PARE) last week.

"There is no need to add artificial islets through reclamation in Panglao. More than losing its stature as a renowned natural tourist attraction, hundreds of marine species found in the proposed reclamation site will be destroyed," former Panglao Mayor Doloreich Dumaluan said stressing he has no political agenda since he is not even running for any position in the coming polls.

Two proponents have signified interest in the reclamation project aiming to convert a huge portion of Panglao Bay into hectares of prime land that will become a center of commerce, resorts and coastal tourism activities.

If the project pushes through, it would be the biggest offshore reclamation in the country that would reportedly compare with world-class developments that are drawing tourists.

Of the two proponents, one is entering into a joint venture with the provincial government to organize a consortium of giant and reputable developers.

With the May elections drawing near, the proposal promises to be a hot issue in Panglao among reelectionist Mayor Benedicto Alcala and three other aspirants for the town's top post.

MARINE SPECIES

An improvement to his opposition to the Panglao Bohol International Airport Development Project, Dumaluan cited marine researches showing the rich biodiversity around Panglao Island , including the planned site.

Project proponents have identified Panglao Bay as an ideal site for the reclamation since there are no marine sanctuaries in the area and its maximum water depth reaches only 0.4 meters during high tide.

Dumaluan however disagrees saying Panglao Island itself is considered as a center of biodiversity.

In 2007, a marine research team has found up to 250 new species of crustacean and 2,500 previously unknown species of mollusk around the island, the former mayor noted.

The team - composed of 80 scientists, technicians, students and volunteers from 19 countries - also gathered specimens previously regarded as rare to very rare, including those previously thought not to exist in the Philippines.

The discoveries are considered the most comprehensive survey of deep-sea invertebrates in the tropics.

The new discoveries were the product of the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project, the most comprehensive survey of deep-sea invertebrates in the tropics conducted from 2004 to 2005.
         
The former mayor cited that holotypes of the rare and new species have found its way to the Philippine National Museum to be available to scientists worldwide.

"Scientists from other countries said that Panglao alone is higher in diversity compared to Japan and the Mediterranean ," he added.

Species found during the survey include crustacean - a group that includes crayfish, crabs, lobsters and shrimps - and some hundreds of species of mollusks.

MORE DETAILED STUDY

One of the proponents negotiating with the provincial government for a joint venture undertaking, Oasis Leisure Islands Development Inc. (OLIDI), however said that they will still come out with a detailed mapping of the proposed project site.

Norris Oculam, OLIDI president, explained to the Chronicle that issues raised by environmental groups and so-called oppositors are premature.

"We have learned that the other proponent already conducted boring tests in the area even without clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), but as far as our group is concerned, we still have to make consultations with stakeholders," he said.

Oculam said, after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) authorized last week Gov. Erico Aumentado to enter into negotiations for a joint venture, their next step will be the environmental and social study.

"This will be our basis if the proposal is 'a go or no go', but right now, everything is in the drawing board," he explained.

He added that the public should not be prejudiced with sweeping statements of self-styled environmentalists regarding possible destruction the project would inflict on marine life in the area.

Oculam's group, backed by biologists and marine scientists, will map out and survey every single square meter of the area to obtain the real dimensions about its marine life.

"We have to see if there is actually biodiversity in the proposed site, identify the species, before making judgments. Right now, what we have heard so far from oppositors are highly speculative and doubtful."

Oculam said the determinant factor is the outcome of the environmental study and its social acceptability.

GOVERNOR'S NOD

Gov. Erico Aumentado last friday vowed he will not allow any environmental violation of the project even as reports said that it is the governor who is bullish of the proposed reclamation project,.

In fact, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has issued authority for the governor to discuss matters with the project proponent,

The SP action met strong criticims from the public sensing a "done deal" on the project which the governor himself obviously showed keen interest and support.

The proposed reclamation which is perceived as potential environmental destruction particularly to the marine resources is expected to become a political issue against Gov. Aumentado who is running for congressman in the 2nd district after serving as governor for three terms.

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