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ENRD recommends survey of Tambobo Bay, other areas of Siaton for Crown of Thorns starfish presence

DUMAGUETE CITY, Nov. 28 – The Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) of the provincial government of Negros Oriental is recommending that an ocular inspection be done in Tambobo Bay and other areas in Siaton town to determine the presence of the deadly Crown of Thorns starfish.

ENRD’s Manric Barillo, coastal resources management coordinator, said the proposed survey of other areas in Siaton town will help ascertain whether this particular type of starfish has already spread to other coral reefs, particularly in Tambobo Bay where an outbreak was reported in the mid-1990s.

In the past three weeks, more than 13,000 crown of thorns starfish had been collected, initially by private divers, resort owners and local fishermen at Barangay Siit in Siaton, which had prompted the ENRD to coordinate with the town and village councils for a night dive to conduct an ocular inspection.

Several volunteers from the public and private sectors, including scuba divers and fishermen, who went on a night dive last Wednesday had collected only a little over 200 starfish, most of them in the juvenile stage. However, the following day, more than 1,000 starfish were physically removed from the same coral reefs in a repeat dive.

While Barillo is saying that a study is still needed to determine an “infestation”, he recommends that Tambobo Bay be surveyed to prevent a spread of the starfish that preys on coral polyps and, if allowed to multiply in large numbers, would endanger the corals.

“We encourage people from Tambobo Bay, part of the management committee, to participate in the survey at the Tambobo marine reserve,” Barillo said.

Barillo also emphasized the need for collaboration between local officials, government agencies, resort owners, fishermen and local communities to establish a sustainable monitoring and action plan to protect the province’s coral reefs, whether they are located in marine protected areas or not. (PNA) LAP/FFC/JFP

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  • Gena Dayon December 3, 2011, 6:05 PM

    Many years of appeals through letters and SB pleadings to curb overfishing and regulating the mooring of big commercial boats in Tambobo Bay are beyond the authority of the Siaton SB. In a recorded meeting, Councilor Alfie Lagos said that the SB cannot do anything as govt. officers higher that they are are “fishermen” when we presented a plea for support for the reef through a PowerPoint. I was only told they had other more important matters to discuss, after I was invited to present and then postponed for another week. A survey of the reef early this year has already been submitted long before the outbreak was reported, and the light boats with big commercial fishing boats (photos and videos) day and night flock in front of Antulang and has been depleting marginal fishermen of daily food. The police tell me “matumba amo kaldero” and all other reasons. This is just one of the plagues we all have to face because we do not like to rock the boat.

    The authorities have really other matters to attend to.

  • Karla Gregorio December 3, 2011, 6:53 PM

    Siaton Crown-of-Thorns Outbreak

    This marine pollution effect seems like a new event, the plague being the main environment topic of many newspapers in the province. But this was starting many years before in Tambobo Bay entrance, just when we were starting to build our base in 2006. We always had to board the boat there, but then the COTs were getting too nasty, and Martin (Jordan) saw the need to balance the ecosystem with an appeal to start enforcing the fishery law. Nothing much happened, so we went to Siit Bbarangay Council to appeal for support and start a marine protected area, then presented facts to the SB, and continued to work for more MPAs. What happened was we got the ire of the locals, as they really had no idea what RA 8550 was for: for their own protection. There were propaganda posters against us, inciting a mob to drive us out, or our videos and photo reports of the crimes and violations day and night were simply ignored. “Just document it, just make another report…”

    Up to now, we still hear a lot of criticisms from govt. employees and officers, and we already have refrained from being so visible in public meetings. With this COT plague, the authorities like to say this is something new. This is what Save Phil. Seas also mentioned about how the dolphins in shows are abused, people play stupid. Mentally-ill people are not made accountable for whatever chaos they bring. And we just have to face the dire consequences.

  • Ombudsman December 3, 2011, 10:09 PM

    Here is a simple explanation from Dr. Angel Alcala:

    (From his Dumaguete MetroPost article, Spirit of the Law)

    “…It is therefore very sad to receive reports that seagrasses in their prime state of productive life are harvested by the truckloads by some people and some fishers with the apparent approval of the officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the local government officials at Siit, a barangay located between the municipalities of Siaton and Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental according to reports I received during the Holy Week (this year). The seagrass material harvested was to be sold to some Chinese traders to be converted to fertilizer somewhere else, according to information. A larger question is how many local communities in the country are destroying seagrass beds?
    Did not these Siit exploiters know that they destroyed the habitats of adult and juvenile fish, the shrimps, etc. that were living in the seagrass beds of Siit? Did they know that they reduced the productivity of the coastal area of Siit?
    My guess is that the government officials that gave permits to exploit the seagrass beds did not read the R.A. 8550 (the Fishery Code) or if they did, they must have justified their action by the absence of a specific provision against the harvesting of seagrass. In R.A. 8550, there is a clear prohibition of the destruction of corals and mangroves (see pp. 63-64, Legal and Jurisdictional Framework for Coastal Management, Philippine Coastal Management Guidebook Series No.2, 2001) with the use of active gears, “muro-ami”, “paaling” for corals and the cutting of trees for mangroves. The reason is to protect the habitats of fishes and other marine species in these two ecosystems.
    So even though physical destruction of seagrass beds is not mentioned in the law (the letter of the law), physical destruction of marine habitats other than coral reefs and mangroves, such as seagrass beds, is implied in the spirit of the law. Seagrass beds are habitats of fish, just like coral reefs and mangroves. It is therefore logical that they be considered as critical habitats together with coral reefs and mangroves. As such, they should not be harvested or removed from coastal areas where they occur. They should be conserved because they form part of our highly productive coastal ecosystems.

  • Gena Dayon December 3, 2011, 10:22 PM

    Gap between Policy and Implementation
    A. C. Alcala
    • Sun, Jul 24, 2011
    Our main problem in natural resources management in the country is not lack of good policies but failure to implement these policies.
    The laws governing good management are often deliberately broken. This is the reason why initial successes in the management of our renewable natural resources cannot be sustained in the long term.
    Having said that, I hasten to point out that a few outstanding examples of good governance of our local natural resources exist where local officials lead in setting up projects that tend to conserve marine biodiversity, including fishery species. But they are too few and far between, despite the many national projects funded from external sources to improve governance.
    An example of good policy is the Fishery Code of 1998, where fishery resources are partitioned into two groups of fishers: the small-scale or artisanal fishers and the large commercial fishers.
    But the Code is not implemented by many LGUs, and large-scale commercial fishers continue to operate within the coastal areas reserved for small fishers who are struggling to make a living.
    And what is bad is that these commercial fishers have been reported to use fishing methods that tend to be destructive to fishery stocks, such as “superlights” and fine-meshed nets.
    By the way, I once asked a Bureau of Fisheries official why BFAR has not prevented the recent massive fish kills in Taal Lake. The response was that the local government units did not implement the regulations controlling the stocking of fish in fish cages and fish pens.
    This evasive reply does not make sense because the agency exercises oversight, and is tasked to regulate fish stocking in aquaculture.
    A close look into such violations reveals that operators of commercial fishing boats who violate the law occupy high positions in government, local or national. This situation encourages the lower or subordinate officials to follow suit.
    The result is that management and protection of natural resources according to the Fishery Code are neglected or ignored, and coastal resources continue to degrade.
    Evidence is mounting that fish yields today are many times lower than those 40 to 50 years ago.
    What about the local communities that are willing to engage in activities that can improve their fish catch? They become quiet and are dismayed and demoralized when they learn that high government officials are involved in illegal or questionable fishing activities. So they continue to practice unsustainable fishing even in depleted areas, making the depleted condition of fishing grounds even worse.
    So who are concerned with the depletion of the marine resources at present and in the future? Only a few people in local communities, some organizations and academic institutions, many of whom have little or no immediate or direct stake in the fishery/biodiversity resources.
    But they are worried about how the quality of life of our people will be affected by the uncaring attitude and behavior of those in power.
    What is clear is that policy-formulating and law-making are definitely not enough. Laws must be implemented in order to benefit the people and the country.

    (Back to MetroPost HOME PAGE)

  • Karla Gregorio December 4, 2011, 4:52 PM

    Residents of Barangay Siit can claim the WRIT of KALIKASAN. Various proofs of documented reports with videos and photos of pirates and other crimes in Barangay Siit have mostly been neglected, and we are scolded by the local members of the PNP and the chief DA if we report and plead for help in curbing these abuses for many, many years.

    The basis of the Writ of Kalikasan rests in Article II, Section 16 on the Declaration of Principles and State Policies of the 1987 Constitution, which states that, “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature”.
    This new rule, The Rules and Procedures on Environmental Cases, (A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC) came to life under the leadership of Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, a judicial environmental activist who is commended for taking a bold step in protecting our environment. These Rules and Procedures on Environmental Cases will be the weapon of environmental activists in combating these politicians, the military and in most cases businessmen, who take advantage of their positions to favor these unwanted nature robbers and collect dirty money of huge sums from the unlawful exploitation and exploration of our natural resources.
    The Writ of Kalikasan may be availed of individually and cumulatively and it may include the issuance of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) in cases when there is an extreme urgency and/or the applicant may suffer grave injustice or irreparable injury.
    The very purpose of the Writ of Kalikasan is to protect the rights of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation that may involve an environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities of provinces.
    Citing Section 15 of Rule 8 under the same Rules, the following are the reliefs that may be granted under the writ:
    a) Direct respondent to permanently cease and desist from committing acts or neglecting the performance of a duty in violation of environmental laws resulting in environmental destruction or damage;
    (b) Direct the respondent public official, government agency, private person or entity to protect, preserve, rehabilitate or restore the environment;
    (c) Direct the respondent public official, government agency, private person or entity to monitor strict compliance with the decision and orders of the court;
    (d) Direct the respondent public official, government agency, or private person or entity to make periodic reports on the execution of the final judgment; and
    (e) Such other reliefs which relate to the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology or to the protection, preservation, rehabilitation or restoration of the environment, except the award of damages to individual petitioners.
    Considering the above-mentioned reliefs and the extent of protection the Writ of Kalikasan have, it cannot be denied that it plays a vital role in protecting our environment. The protection and preservation of our environment is an intergenerational responsibility, hence, everybody should take that first step and be an environmental activist.
    The rampant smuggling of corals, the deliberate destruction of marine life, the continuing ignorance of others in the importance of preservation and protection of our natural resources is alarming. Remember, our life on earth is interconnected that we are but one loose thread tied at the end so that no one will be left behind, hence, when one is damage, all will crumble down.

    A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC
    Supreme Court

  • Angelfish December 14, 2011, 1:12 PM

    Let’s compare the COT outbreak like trapos. Political moves have unpredictable outcomes. Who is going to end up in power is rarely obvious at the start. That is as true in biology as it is in politics. Like political revolutions, though, biological ones often follow a predictable course. The old order is destroyed. There is a period of confusion. Then a new ecosystem emerges that looks surprisingly like the old one, but with different actors.

    So how will the “Turtle Island” in Siaton be “developed”? Will the DENR enlarge some more the pier so more barges can carry the quarried sand, or deliver the cement bags of our big shots? Or we will have more questionable characters in the bay who eat the turtle eggs and the nesting turtles so we can have more voters for the coming election? We heard that the Marine Protected Area of Siyt Bay has also been missing perimeter buoys, and the volunteers their were told there is no budget. How many of the MPAs in Siaton is actually functioning for the ecosystem service?