Baganga mayor orders temporary prohibition of tourism activities in Poo Island

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 June) – The municipal government of Baganga in the province of Davao Oriental has ordered the temporary suspension of tourism activities in the Poo Kinablangan Sandbar following reports of improper waste management and illegal structures deemed to be harmful in preserving the marine life in the area.

Kinablangan in Davao Oriental. Satellite image courtesy of Google

Baganga Mayor Arturo Monday has issued an Executive Order No. 29 on Friday (June 19, although published in its official Facebook page only on Wednesday) mandating to “temporarily prohibit” tourists and any kinds of tourism activities in the famed sandbar located in Barangay Kinablangan.

The mayor has directed law enforcement agencies – including the Baganga Municipal Police, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion – to strictly implement “with restraint and within the bounds of the law” the prohibition of any tourism activities, as well as to maintain the peace and order in the area.

Law enforcers will be assisted by the Municipal Bantay Dagat and the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams (BPATs) to ensure that implementation of the order is properly carried out.

The two-page EO of the mayor bared that the municipal government has observed that there is sudden influx of tourists visiting the Sandbar without observing the prescribed minimum health standards required by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) during the implementation of the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) amid the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“CENRO City Environment and Natural Resources Office) and MENRO (Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office) report environment concerns on waste management and illegal structure which may destroy natural habitat of marine species in the area,” the order said.

It can be noted that last June 13, the municipal government revealed that operations in the Poo Sandbar has no environment permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and tourism accreditation permits from the Department of Tourism (DOT), pointing out that there are cottages that were put up illegally in the area being rented to tourists at P400.

“We cannot destroy this paradise. If this will continue to operate, it has to be compliant with the existing laws in the Philippines,” the local government said previously.

Mayor Monday stressed in the executive order that it is necessary to implement the urgent measures to address these “human-induced hazards” to protect and promote the health and well-being of residents and tourists, and to prevent further degradation of the island’s “rich ecosystem.”

Meanwhile, the mayor has also directed the barangay local government unit of Kinablangan to comply with execution of the municipal directive and must ensure that no tourist will be allowed to enter the sandbar until such time that the order will be lifted.

“All tourists and residents of Poo Island, Kinablangan are also urged to act within the bounds of the law and to comply with the directives herein provided to protect and promote the health and well-being of residents during community quarantine and to maintain the ecological balance of the area which will be for the benefit of all concerned,” the order said. (Warren Elijah E. Valdez / MindaNews)