Cabaero: What to do in a week?

GOVERNMENT officials of Oslob town in southern Cebu asked for one week to clean up a sandbar and dive sites in areas off Sumilon Island, following an influx of tourists during the Lenten break.

What exactly will that cleanup entail and what can you fix in just one week? Perhaps the actual cleanup could run in a week but you will need more time to ensure a change in mindset of tourism stakeholders and local residents to sustain these tourist favorites.

The work will require that these areas be off limits to tourists for the weeklong cleanup that was to start today, Tuesday. Not that the island proper, home to the Bluewater Island Resort would be closed, but the cleanup work would be done in Barangay Bangkogon, off the island proper.

Oslob Mayor Jose Tumulak Jr. had to clarify this because the island resort management complained about wrong information on the island’s closure. It’s business as usual, a resort official said. With that settled, local officials could now focus on the real work of cleaning up these sites.

This heightened interest to keep beach resorts clean and environmentally sound came as a reaction to the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to close Boracay island in Aklan for six months starting April 26.

Cebu is an alternative destination for tourists who were supposed to go to Boracay. Cebu resorts then should be able to live up to the promise of being better than Boracay.

One favorite tourist destination in Cebu is Oslob town, known for its white sand, beach resorts, dive spots, and the watching of whale sharks or butanding. Mayor Tumulak said the cleanup will run from April 10 to 16 after tourists spent the spent Holy Week in those areas. It will also give these spots time to “take a breather” after accommodating so many tourists, the mayor said in a SunStar Cebu report.

Cleaning up would mean rallying environmentalists and local residents to pick up broom sticks and garbage bins to collect trash on the shore and shallow waters while divers from the Philippine Coast Guard and Navy do the cleaning underwater and checking on the conditions of reefs.

Rehabilitating the sandbar could refer to ensuring there are adequate toilets and a proper sewage system so the waste from the toilets do not go to the waters. Waste disposal, as in the Boracay case, has to be taken seriously. Water samples would have to be collected and tested for any form of contamination.

What may contribute to the water contamination are the buildings and resorts that do not follow environmental laws and easements or the required distance from the water. Not abiding by these laws will lead to the degradation of natural assets.

After the cleanup will be the updating of rules and the seeking of commitments to abide by them, otherwise another cleanup would be needed after the next long weekend.

No, it doesn’t begin and end in one week. Protecting our shores and seas require a continued monitoring of structures and underwater activities, and stricter implementation of rules on managing sites and tourist favorites.
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