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Tourism issues raised: Dolphin-watching in Bohol ‘chaotic’

PANGLAO, BOHOL, Philippines —  “The dolphin-watching tours off Panglao Island turned chaotic over the weekend for a few of nature's quiet-loving 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 dollar-earning 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.

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“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 dolphin-watching 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.


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