Cebu’s tourism stakeholders called on the Oslob municipal government to enforce the prohibition against feeding of the whale sharks.
They also urged Oslob officials to study the Donsol whale shark project for better ways on how to deal with the creatures.
In a phone interview, former tourism undersecretary Phineas Alburo said he supports Albay Gov. Joey Salceda’s call that the Oslob municipal government should study the success story that is the Donsol whale shark project.
“Learn about their story. How they started it, the challenges they faced in the past and how they overcome each one of them and how they were able to sustain the project until today,” Alburo said.
Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren said he doesn’t understand where Salceda’s call came from because they haven’t violated any regulations.
“We operate only in the morning to allow them (whale sharks) to rest and do their natural activities. We only feed them but discourage tourists from touching them,” Guaren said.
Alburo said people are quick to conclude that the Donsol methodoloy cannot be applied in Cebu.
He said it should be studied well by technical people and applied in Oslob.
“What we hear now are all political – the people’s livelihood and all that might be lost because of any modification in their operations,” Alburo said.
He said he visited Donsol and saw for himself how successful their whale shark watch project is.
“Everybody’s happy there. Livelihood of people, protection of the whale sharks, overall sustainability is achieved,” he said.
Former regional tourism director Patria Aurora Roa agreed with Alburo, saying she was against the feeding activities.
“Feeding them is simply wrong and it defeats the purpose of whale shark watching because from the shoreline you can already see them. That is very unhealthy practice which I think cannot be sustained for a long time,” Roa said.
Roa said tourists are required to maintain a certain distance from the whale shark to avoid disturbing their natural activities.
“Here they are touching them, swimming to close and feeding them. It’s entirely wrong,” Roa said.
Based on data from the regional Economic Development Council showed that Oslob town generated P35 million in income for the first nine months since they started operations in January last year.
Guaren said there are many locals who benefited from their new tourism attraction including fishermen who now have an alternative livelihood.
Islands Group president and chief executive officer Jay Aldeguer said the prohibition on the feeding of whale sharks should be enforced.
“ There could be environmental repercussions but at the same time, the livelihood it has given the community is not negligible,” said Aldeguer.
He said all concerns raised are valid which makes the issue difficult. /Aileen Garcia-Yap, Reporter