Surigao town moves to protect pristine islets

SAN AGUSTIN, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/19 March) – To protect one of the best island destinations in the Caraga Region from abuse and liter, this small town is now fast-tracking ordinances and guidelines to prepare for the influx of local and international tourists as the Holy Week and summer are fast approaching.

NATURE'S BEAUTY. A couple enjoys a scenic walk in one of the bigger islets of the Britania group of islands in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur on March 18, 2012. MindaNews photo by Erwin MascarinasThe municipality of San Agustin hosts the small islands of Britania. Five out of the more than 20 islets are accessible to tourists wanting to explore the white sand beaches and tranquil blue waters.

“Within this week, we are hoping to finish our new ordinance requiring the local government unit to collect fees and charges. This will also include environmental protection and fees for those who will just come and liter our beaches and islands in Barangay Britania,” said Therisita Orcullo Ronquillo, a municipal councilor who chairs the tourism committee.

Ronquillo pointed out the need for such ordinance since for years people who visited the islands just bring in cellophane, bottles and other plastic containers, along with other debris and then just leave these behind after hopping from one islet to another.

“Some of our new visitors had complained about stepping on the trash and debris. We tried to do a cleanup campaign after, but we need new guidelines so that our pump boat operators, resort personnel and even residents would be able to apprehend violators and have them pay a fine,” she said.

Sharon Latar, who used to work as a medical representative and had been visiting the islands the past few years, expressed concern that if the community will not work together, they will lose a valuable asset.

“In the past, not so many people knew about the islands,” Latar said. She noted that the Britania islands are now becoming popular, thanks to the Internet.

“I’m sure with the new establishments and facilities in place, more people will visit,” Latar said, lamenting that with more visitors coming in also means more garbage left behind.

This coming Thursday, the municipal government is planning to hold a public hearing on the new ordinance getting the cooperation of pump boat operators and resort owners in the hope of getting their cooperation in the joint effort to watch for violators spreading liter in the islands. (Erwin Mascariñas / MindaNews)