NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
The Sangguniang Bayan in Baclayon has finally passed an Ordinance regulating whale shark interaction, but strictly banning feeding of the marine wildlife.
This surfaced after the Baclayon Federated Fishermen Association (BFFA) urged the municipal councilors to allow them to do the feeding of whaleshark, known here as Balilan, like what Lila town whaleshark operators are doing.
Section4 of Article 3 of Ordinance entitled “Whaleshark Conservation Measure” bans “provisioning or the use of any methods designed to attract marine wildlife including whalesharks, using food (artificial or natural), including, but not limited to, luring, baiting, chumming and feeding.”
Other prohibitions in whaleshark tourism interaction includes “any provocative acts but not limited to teasing, chasing and aggressive pursuit of the whalsharks; any method designed to attract marine wildlife, including, but not limited to, splashing, creating bubbles, noise-making (with plastic bottles or other methods), using light from any artificial source and use of chemicals.”
“Any physical contact, including touching or handling or attempted touching or handling, of the whale shark; riding and stepping on, and attempting to ride or step on, the whaleshark; and any method that would entrap marine wildlife, including but not limited to, trapping them in a particular area, physically with the use of permanent and temporary structures including nets, or with the use of any attraction, within the municipality of Baclayon.”
Councilor Erico Joseph T. Canete author of the said Ordinance considered to be consistent with the Municipal Ordinance No. 04, series of 2011, “providing fora more sustainable cetacean tourism management thru the use of cetacean interaction guidelines, user fees, licensing system, setting manageable limits for tourism and preferential access for the former whale shark hunters within the territorial waters of the municipality of Baclayon.”
All business operating in the municipal water which conduct island hopping, cetacean and whale watching and all people, entities or corporations that use and/or intend to use the whale shark resources of the municipality for tourism livelihood are mandated to enforce the ordinance.
The Ordinance also provides penalties under section 7 of Article 4; violation of section 4 of article 3 shall be fined P1,500; P2,000 for first and second offenses; and P2,500 for 3rd offense for each person committing the violation and/or imprisonment of not less than a month but not exceeding six months upon the discretion of the court.
Violations of article 4, section 4, upon final judgment of the court: first offense –P1,500 for each person on board the vessel; second offense – P2,000 each person on board the vessel; third succeeding offense – P2,500 for each person on board the vessel and/or imprisonment on not less than one month but not exceeding six months or both fine and imprisonment upon the discretion of the court.
Violators of section 3 of this ordinance shall have option to pay a compromise fine without filing of charges in court, as follows: 1st offense – P1,500 each person on board the vessel; 2nd – P2,000 each person on board the vessel; and third – P2,500 each person on board the vessel.
Thevessel and equipment used in the violation of this measure after the 3rd offense shall be confiscated in favor of the local government unit.
Meanwhile, in its petition-letter dated January 23, 2020, the fishers said that they will regulate the whaleshark watching as part of the plan for interaction activities with the gentle giant.
Included in its regulation is to keep distance from the whaleshark and prevent from touchingthem just like what the Lila and Oslob, Cebu are practicing.
“Among ipadayag ug mohangyo nga unta dili ninyo idili ang pagtuwa sa Butanding. Diliman gud na sila motunga kon walay pagkaon nga naa sa ibabaw sa tubig,” they claimed. (We would like to ask you to allow us to feed the whaleshark since they won’t surface to water without food.)
The fishers said that Lila is now receiving an average of 300 visitors daily after they learned first hand during their visit of the place.
And the income is divided into shares benefiting the fishers, town, barangay and the operators.
They urged the Sangguniang Bayan not to proceed of passing or approving the Municipal ordinance, providing for regulations for the conservation of whalesharks within the municipal waters of this town.
They claimed that feeding of whalesharks is not illegal. “Gani ang komentaryo sa Lila nganong undangon man (pagtuwa) nga wala may illegal silang gibuhat sama rasa Oslob.”
If the feeding ban is carried out here but in other places is okay, is this not a selective law implementation that Baclayon and Lila have the same seawater where the whalesharks pass by, the lamented.
Whalesharks are always sighted within the vicinity off barangay Guiwanon in this town, they said.
Those who signed the petition are presidents of their resectie fishermen organizations: Anastacio Pancito of brangay Laya; Norberto Guigayoma – Montana; Felix Quinal – Poblacion; Royce Guingguing – San Roque; Abundio Quipit –Guiwanon; Alexander Tingco – Sta. Cruz; Ritchie Bangoy – San Vicente-Baliaut; Sisinio Dapar – Taguihon; and proponent Arnel Aninon. (rvo)