Dol­phin-watch­ing in Bo­hol ‘chaotic’

The Freeman - - REGION - Ric V. Obe­den­cio, Cor­re­spon­dent RENTACARBOHOL.COM

PANGLAO, BO­HOL — “The dol­phin-watch­ing tours off Panglao Is­land turned chaotic over the week­end for a few of na­ture's qui­et­lov­ing aquatic mam­mals as tourists chased them for per­sonal de­light and ex­cite­ment.”

This was the com­mon ob­ser­va­tion of tourists lately, which also prompted Bo­hol Pro­vin­cial Board Mem­ber Alexie Tu­tor, tourism com­mit­tee chair­per­son, to say that she will try to raise this mat­ter to be re­solved.

Tu­tor told The FREE­MAN that she would look into what agency or in­di­vid­ual is mon­i­tor­ing dol­phin-watch­ing tour. Among the is­sues she will raise are as fol­lows: Are boat tour op­er­a­tors or­ga­nized? Do they have reg­u­la­tions in the con­duct of this type of tours?

This was not the first time how­ever that The FREE­MAN re­ceived this kind of crit­i­cism on the han­dling and manag­ing of dol­phin-watch­ing tours in Panglao, and in Pami­la­can Is­land off Ba­clayon, Bo­hol.

Com­plaints like this how­ever had not reached tourism of­fi­cials and stake­hold­ers for them to ad­dress this rather im­proper way of whale or dol­phin watch­ing, one of the dol­larearn­ing tourist at­trac­tions here, a tour op­er­a­tor once said.

This is­sue in Bo­hol tourism came about again af­ter Abbey Can­turias, one of for­mer edi­tors of The FREE­MAN, posted a com­ment in his Face­book ac­count where he vented his ire by what he and his fam­ily had ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing their va­ca­tion last week.

“With engines revved to a crescendo of noise, and as pro­pel­lers whirred, as many as 80 mo­tor­ized out­rig­gers rushed to ev­ery sight­ing of the gen­teel crea­tures. It was dis­or­derly chaos that lo­cal fish­er­men say has been re­cur­ring ev­ery now and then in the wa­ters near Pami­la­can and Bal­i­casag is­lands, un­rav­el­ing the lack of over­sight and reg­u­la­tion in Bo­hol's tourism in­dus­try,” wrote Can­turias.

He de­scribed it fur­ther this way: “I saw in my own eyes the dis­or­der and chaos into which the dol­phin­watch­ing tours have had fallen. Last Satur­day I saw a large fleet of about 70 or 80 mo­tor­ized out­rig­gers (with over 390 do­mes­tic and for­eign tourists on board) pur­su­ing a small group of dol­phins. With engines revving to a crescendo of noise and pro­pel­lers wildly whirring, a few dol­phins had to make a run for them­selves. I no­tice the ab­sence of reg­u­la­tion and over­sight, if not rea­son­able re­straint. If this will con­tinue, these gen­teel aquatic crea­tures will shy away from Panglao.”

He added: “Scared by the whirring sound of pro­pel­lers and the revving roar of engines, they have to leap away or be ran over by man's self-cen­tered quest for en­ter­tain­ment.

“The out­rig­gers came from dif­fer­ent points of ori­gin and their con­ver­gence in the dol­phin zone has had no clear lim­i­ta­tions. There were eight times more boats than there were dol­phins, and that has been go­ing on since be­fore Christ­mas Day.

“The dol­phin-watch­ing sor­ties have be­come daily fare, in the run up to the Christ­mas and the new year hol­i­days — an in­di­ca­tion that no reg­u­la­tions are en­forced.

“Ja­panese, Tai­wanese, and Chi­nese tourists in my troupe had to come to grips with ma­nip­u­la­tion. Ac­cess fee to the fish and sea tur­tle sanc­tu­ar­ies, plus snorkel and row-boat ser­vice was P600 per head, or higher if you are yel­low-skinned, dink-eyed or you walk like there is a mule be­tween your legs.

“At Bal­i­casag is­land, tourists bore the brunt of ex­or­bi­tant food prices. Two pieces of duly cooked crabs (lam­bay) were priced at P350. Five pieces of reg­u­lar sized shrimps also fetched P350. This is way, way off com­pared with Palawan's El Nido and Coron tourist en­claves,” Can­turias added.

Tourists in an outrig­ger boat watch dol­phins in the seas off Bal­i­casag is­land in Bo­hol.

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