Balingasag mayor assures town is red-tide free

BALINGASAG, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/15 April) — Local officials invited reporters and investors to a feast of grilled and “kinilaw na bangus,” on Tuesday to prove that it is safe to eat fish caught in this town.

The show of assurance came as the red tide phenomenon continued to affect the fish farming industry in Northern Mindanao killing thousands of bangus and kitong (rabbitfish).

“Algae toxins do not affect the bangus. It is even safe to eat raw bangus,” Balingasag Mayor Alexis Quina told his guests over a plate of “kinilaw na bangus.”

“Media reports that bangus from Balingasag are not fit to eat are false. We have been eating bangus even if the patches of red tine were present in our bay,” Quina said.

The mayor said the red tide only affected the small bangus fingerlings not the matured fish.

He said rains brought by the low pressure area in Central Visayas had a good effect on the red tide that has plagued their fish farming industry.

“Since the rains came last Saturday, we noticed the red patches were no longer visible in the water surface. I think the red tide has disappeared. If it is gone, that would be very welcome news for us,” Quina said.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said 45,594 pieces of bangus worth P550,560 died when the algae toxins devastated the fish cages in the Mariculture Park in Balingasag early this month.

Investors like Rodrigo Basallo, who have invested on 14 fish cages in the Mariculture Park, echoed the call of Balingasag town officials.

“There is really nothing to be alarmed [of]. The red tide affected only the bangus fingerlings because they are still very weak to resist the algae toxins,” Basallo said.

He said none of his fish cages, which already have matured bangus, was affected.

But BFAR Region 10 director Visa Tan-Dimeren said they cannot yet declare that Balingasag and the rest of Northern Mindanao is red tide-free.

Dimeren said they are still receiving daily reports that the red tide has continued to affect other towns.

“In Kauswagan town in Lanao del Norte, daily reports indicate that the red tide is slaughtering 500 kilos of kitong a day,” Dimeren said.

“Just the other day, the beaches in Baliangao in Misamis Occidental were declared off limits because of the presence of algae blooms. Yesterday another beach was also declared off limits to swimmers,” she said.

The official advised consumers to cook well any fish they bought from affected towns in Northern Mindanao.

Bangus farming in the Mariculture Park is a P50-million industry. Its 260 fish cages provide jobs to 400 local fishermen and contribute P280,658 in taxes to the coffers of this second-class municipality.

“This industry is one of our fastest growing industries and so many downstream businesses rely on bangus farming,” Quina said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)