DISCUSSING about the bridge between Samal and Davao City, where it was to pass and how it was decided, all that my mind could churn out was the jarring silence of civil society. There is but the Rodriguez family raising a protest. But that’s expected because it’s their property that the bridge will be cutting through. But where are the voices of those standing up for the gulf?

Quiet. A silence only those who have been aware of how things really were in the 1990s will ever notice.

In a separate discussion a few years back, a young man with the support of his company was asking whether there is a particular group they can consult with regards their marine conservation initiative at the Davao Gulf. I said there was once the Save Davao Gulf Foundation, and then there was the Davao Gulf Management Council.

What are those? Where are they now? He asked.

I said they all disappeared along with the interest.

That’s one big thing I miss with Councilor Leo Avila’s passing. He took his role as the steward of the marine environment, women, and children to heart. He was out there, doing something. No other councilor ever came close to how he gave voice for the defenseless — the sea turtles and streetchildren among them.

What we’re left with now are new generations who may not even be aware of Davao Gulf and its vast natural resources unique. Today, there are just the beaches, and the Instagram posts that can be derived from them.

Even the present-day reporters and editors will not have the memory of how dapper the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary were as they attend events and represent Save Davao Gulf with pride. How much dapper can an auxiliary be in their white uniforms when you have the likes of Margie Moran Floirendo, Leo Avila, and business leader Sebastian Angliongto wearing them?

Floirendo would always be at the forefront while Angliongto would be busy behind the scenes, sharing views and issues with Avila.

Those were the days when environmental impact was always the bone of contention and volunteerism and concern for the environment was at its height.

These days, there are non-government groups still working, mostly for watershed areas, but no one is standing up for Davao Gulf, not even international non-government organizations who used to be very interested in the diversity of the this body of water that is what binds the Davao Region as one — the cetaceans (aka whales and dolphins), the sea turtles (five of six kinds), the dugongs... we only hear of them only as posts on social media now most of the time by some individuals showing photos of mostly dead critters. Nothing about people doing something to prevent those dead critters from surfacing.

Who looks out for Davao Gulf? Even the government coordinating body, Davao Gulf Management Council is no longer operational. Has anyone even noticed? I hope so.

(saestremera@gmail.com)