pic taken from http://www.theboholstandard.com/topstory.php?issue=202&s1=3453&s2=3456&s3=3460&s4=1037&s5=3455&s6=&s7=1040&s8=1038&s9=&s10=&s11=&s12=1039&s13=&s14=&s15=3465 during the scientific conference at Panglao Bohol

Here’s an interesting article from the online version of Bohol Standard and can be accessed

350.org Represented by Vince Cinches was one of the leading organizer of this scientific conference on the issue of Panglao Reclamation.

A group of scientists who were here have spoken against the proposed reclamation off the shores of Panglao island.

“The data is available. Given those facts, we say to Boholanos on the proposed reclamation project: don’t do it. The beauty of your islands is the object that you sell. Don’t destroy it,” scientists from the University of the Philippines, Marine Science Institute said in a forum held Thursday at the Bohol Divers’ Club, in Tawala, Panglao.

The gathering was also attended by environmental advocates which included legal experts from the Philippine Earth Justice System, Asia Center for Sustainable Future; Project Seahorse Foundation, Panglao Nature’s Advocates; Padayon Bohol BMT; BONACONSO, Philippine Foundation for Environment, and the Panglaonons Against Reclamation.

Provincial board members Godofreda Tirol and Romulo Cepedoza, chairperson and co-chair, respectively, of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan committee on tourism, also attended the forum.

“When you do reclamation, you have to fill in earth into the sea. Underneath the seabed are thousands of hectares of seagrasses that will be covered and destroyed. The irreversible impact will alter the biodiversity and the marine life that thrives on these seagrasses,” Dr. Rene Rollon, a UP-MSI scientist specializing on seagrass said.

Rollon is a Boholano being a native of Gaus Island, a barangay of the municipality of Carlos P. Garcia (former Pitogo).

He added that scientist are always objective and are not against development.

Also providing valuable data in the forum were Dr. Lemuel Aragones, expert on mammals, UP-Dilliman; Dr. Wilfredo Campos, plankton/ fisheries expert, UP-Visayas; Dr. Cesar Villanoy, physical oceanography, UP-MSI and Dr. Aniera Hortado, UP-Iloilo.

A scientific survey done in 2007 till 2009 revealed that the entire Bohol Marine Triangle area which is approximately 2,300 hectares (covering the seas of Baclayon, Panglao and Maribojoc) has the most diverse marine life, a habitat of many rare and extinct marine species.

The study also revealed a critical current called the Bohol Jet that is active coming from the Surigao Strait in Mindanao spanning up to islands within the Visayan seas.

The reclamation project will alter these current flows. The 670 hectares of new reclaimed lands will cover and destroy 50% of the seabed underneath.

The total area of the reclamation was based on the Oasis Leisure Island Development Incorporated proposal to reclaim 450 hectares and another 220 hectares from the Waterfront Land Developers Group.

Oasis has entered a joint-venture agreement with the Bohol Provincial Government while Waterfront reportedly will also jointly undertake the reclamation with the Municipality of Panglao.

Oasis assured it will undertake three levels of environmental study- a study on natural environments: Marine Biodiversity Study; Hydraulic Studies; and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study, which is required by law under the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System (P.D. 1586) leading to the issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) by DENR.

In its many project presentations among affected barangays and fisher folk, it said most of marine studies in Bohol were conducted in 2003 to 2004.

“It is possible that portion of the OASIS proposed site may have been covered with the sampling. Given that the study conducted seven (7) years ago, there may have been major changes in the site. Hence, there is need for a more recent data to provide a more reliable description of the site,” Oasis said.

Norris Oculam, Oasis Inc. president said if the study reveals the project is not environmentally feasible, they will forget the project and not consider the huge cost they have incurred.

The corporation is determined to spend millions in tapping the expertise of world-renowned environmental resort designers, like the Hawaii-based WATG just to ensure that the project is environmentally sound.

WATG is the world’s leading design-consultant for the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries. It has worked in many territories across six continents and environmental sensitivity has always been one of WATG’s core values.

The group designed the Royal Reef Resort in Queensland, Australia and the

Hotel Bora Bora, in French Polynesia that sits over pristine coral reefs and is among the rated top ten resorts in the Asia Pacific Region.

Its famous projects include the Logo Islands in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; the Hilton Hotels; Shangrila Resort in Muscat, Oman; Hyatt Regency in Cartagena, Spain and many other high-end resorts in 160 countries around the world.

UP scientists, however, said any environmental study undertaken by Oasis on Panglao shore reclamation will only be a “waste” of money.

“Scientific studies are based on facts. The facts we have here, at face value, show that reclamation in these areas is impermissible today. It’s wrongly conceptualized and is environmentally destructive.”

“Any study won’t change anything unless, those who make the study, distort the facts to favor reclamation,” the scientists reiterated.

The Philippine Earth Justice System said the reclamation issue has now become an international concern. A United Nations study revealed that the sea covering the Bohol Marine Triangle is the center of marine diversity in the whole entire planet.

“With thousands of tourists coming to Bohol, the eyes of the world are watching. We have only one ocean, and that’s a lot to think about,” the forum participants said.

Board member Tirol expressed her gratitude for the data presented in the forum.

She was thankful to the scientists.

“Though most of them are not Boholanos, they showed concern in their coming to the island; pro bono and not getting paid,” Tirol said.

“As legislator, environmental preservation is also part of the envisioning of the provincial government. I hope the message gets through: “Please take care of Panglao,” she added.

Boholano scientist Dr. Rollon said in conclusion: “I would say, experts have already spoken. Bisan sa tanan nakong gipahinumdum, gipahibalo unya magtuman jod mo, ug naa nang pagbasol, mahinumdum ra unya mo nako (after all what I have said and still you go ahead, then if you regret about it, you will remember me),” Dr. Rollon said.