Surigao’s Bonok-bonok Festival photo coverage guidelines draw flak

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/30 August) ­– Photojournalists and photo enthusiasts have criticized the guidelines for the coverage of the 2011 Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festival slated on September 9, which will have a screening process, the imposition of a registration fee and obliging photographers to submit pictures of the event.

The City Tourism Council said it is necessary to impose the guidelines to control the onslaught of photographers covering the event.


City Tourism Officer Merlyn B. Merlin told MindaNews that photojournalists and photographers who wish to cover the event will be screened by submitting sample works and will have to pay P250 as registration fee. Once they cover the event, they are obliged to submit “at least five high resolution quality images” to the organizers, apparently to be used in the promotional campaigns for future festivals.


Merlin added the guidelines are final because the City Tourism Council already approved it. She said there is no need to lobby the imposition of fees to the city council because this is not an ordinance.


Photo enthusiast Roel Labrador from neighboring Butuan City said it is not fair to screen photographers wanting to shoot the festival, which is held a day before the feast of San Nicolas. “If this is the case then we will not cover the Bonok-Bonok,” he added.


Professional photographer Stanley Aguilar said he is not going to shoot this coming festival even if officials amend the guidelines. He said he is worried over the screening process, and that other interested photographers may be disqualified.


Philippine Center for Photojournalism director Jimmy A. Domingo said this set of guidelines is “unique” and thus called for a boycott.


The outrage has reached the Internet with a string of Facebook threads that have resorted to name-calling, badmouthing the event.


The photo hobbyists and photojournalists are calling for a review of the guidelines before the council will implement it.


Under the said guidelines, the provincial office of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) is tasked to facilitate the accreditation for the media. Provincial director Fryan E. Abkilan said photojournalists and media practitioners are free to cover the event, which contradicts Merlin’s statement.


Abkilan stressed PIA’s main task is to accredit the media.


He added that top caliber photographers, especially based in the city, will not be screened, saying he knows who they are.


Abkilan said the guidelines are meant to limit the photographers who cover the event so it will be easier to manage the crowd. He explained that in past events, photographers did not heed the call not to get closer to the contingents, prompting onlookers to also join the fray.


He admitted though that the guidelines do not restrict photographers from shooting the street dancing event.


Abkilan lamented that the present brouhaha has only given bad publicity to the city and urged complaining photographers and hobbyists to refrain from overreacting.


Uriel Eugenio S. Correos, of the City Planning and Development Office, said that he and Abkilan were tasked to draft the guidelines, admitting that there were no consultations made.


He added that he and Abkilan opposed the imposition of fees but the Tourism Council approved it.


MindaNews tried to reach City Tourism Council chairperson Ricky Amores for comment but his staff said he was busy attending to some important matters.


On Saturday, City Mayor Ernesto Matugas called a meeting to iron out the issue.


Marlon Coro, president of the Surigao Photo Club, said the tourism office agreed to amend the guidelines, the details of which to be released in the next few days. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)