Environment and animal rights advocates started a movement in protest against the planned dolphin and sea lion show at the Cebu Ocean Park, which will open in April.
In a press conference Thursday, Feb. 7, environment and animal rights advocates said having dolphins and sea lions as entertainment runs counter to provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10654, which eliminates illegal or unregulated possession of marine animals.
RA 10654, or the “Act to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” amended RA 8550, or “The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.”
The groups behind the Cebuano Wildlife Captivity Movement cited social media posts on the upcoming attractions of the Cebu Ocean Park, which will reportedly feature a dolphin and sea lion show.
AG Saño, a member of Balyena.Org and a researcher on marine wildlife, said the Philippines has a lot of laws that prohibit the possession of marine animals, especially marine mammals.
“There are international treaties that the Philippines has signed that don’t allow fishing and possession of marine mammals. In fact, in the Philippines, there are a lot of Fisheries Administrative Orders that prohibit the possession of such wildlife and is considered illegal,” he said.
Saño said they launched the movement to question the legality of the attraction and to urge the local government officials of Cebu not to allow the said shows.
He added they’ve started the initiative to raise awareness among Cebuanos that wildlife captivity is not the best entertainment.
Elaana Kristen Balbuena, a member of the Save a Reef Foundation and one of the leaders of the movement, said having marine mammals in captivity is not the best way to educate children.
“Having marine mammals inside enclosures isn’t the best way to learn how they live because they’re not in their original habitat. There are other ways to enjoy and learn about them like the tourist spot in Oslob where you see whale sharks,” she said.
Balbuena started an online petition to stop wildlife captivity and spread awareness through social media. At least 3,250 people have signed the petition.
Anna Cabrera, the executive director of Philippine Animal Welfare Society (Paws)-Central Visayas, said placing these types of animals in an enclosed area would put them under a lot of stress.
The Cebu Ocean Park, in a Facebook post dated Jan. 9, 2019, denied rumors that it was creating a “dolphin enclosure,” saying there are several fake social media accounts that are not affiliated with it.
“We never had any intention to open a dolphin enclosure, or feature any endangered species for that matter. The sources of these rumors are from non-official accounts,” the statement read.
The statement also warned against online petitions aimed at discrediting their organization.
“Since our inception, we have been fully compliant with all environmental standards set by authorities,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, Prudencio Belga Jr., officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar) 7’s Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Section, said the movement is a good start to spread awareness among the public and government officials in Cebu to think twice before supporting theme parks with these kinds of attraction.
“We would monitor the filing of their permits since our main office in Manila approves them,” he said. (Von Daniel R. Plasencia and Jayvee A. Gulfan, USC Interns)