General Luna exec vows to set up 200-hectare marine sanctuary this year

GENERAL LUNA, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/06 June)—A 200-hectare marine sanctuary will be established within the year off the waters of this locality dubbed as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines,” reelected Mayor Jaime Rusillon told MindaNews.

He said the plan is long overdue since the ordinance creating the marine sanctuary was approved two years ago.

Citing a report from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Region 13, Rusillon said the planned marine sanctuary is part of Siargao Island’s breeding ground that needs to be protected.

The mayor said the establishment of the marine sanctuary will not just benefit the local fishermen in the future but also some boatmen, by bringing tourists to the area for snorkeling and diving.

“This will become an additional tourism site aside from the beautiful islands in the area,” he said.

The marine sanctuary will be located adjacent to the three islands of Guyam, Daku and Pansukian, now famously known as the “Naked Island.”

Aside from putting buoys for the buffer areas, Rusillon said they will submerge artificial reefs and will put up a floating tourist lounge that would also serve as a guardhouse.

Local government funds will be used to realize the project if we cannot find outside financial sources, Rusillon said.

“I think before September, we can probably set this up,” he said.

Some divers and fishermen in the island welcomed the mayor’s plan, saying this will greatly help restore marine life and eventually benefit the local fishermen.

“This is very important for a sustainable marine environment,” said Jonathan Meru, a diver from General Luna and the town’s police chief.

Before his assignment here, he said he has been diving in the island and had seen corals destroyed by dynamite fishing and other destructive fishing methods.

“This [project] would also attract tourists looking for recreation such as underwater sports. The people and fishermen in the town will be the direct beneficiaries of this,” Meru said.

Meru vowed to deploy policemen to the marine sanctuary once it is in place for its protection.

Fisherman Prudencio Meras said the mayor’s plan “is good because the marine sanctuary will become a shelter for fishes and other marine life.”

He said he expects other fishermen to oppose the imposition of a “no-catch zone” within the 200-hectare marine sanctuary.

But this project will eventually be beneficial for the whole community as more fishes can be caught outside the marine sanctuary which is a spawning ground, Meras said.

Discouraging any forms of illegal fishing methods, Meras said he had seen friends lost their lives and limbs to dangerous fishing methods such as dynamite and “buso,” which employs the use of compressors so fishermen can breathe down the water. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)