DONSOL, Sorsogon --- As the annual Butanding Festival kicked off Friday, the town of Donsol in this province, in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines and the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol renewed their call for sustainable and balance eco-tourism program in the area.
Under the renewed joint agreement of the abovementioned parties, those concerned would vigorously enforce the protection of the whale sharks which, according to studies, is now on the red list as endangered species. The parties will also intensify their joint campaign against destructive fishing practices, such as dynamite fishing, that put additional pressure on the whale shark population.
Joel Palma of WWF Philippines said that for the past 21 years, the WWF had partnered with Donsol to promote environmental stewardship and sustainable tourism in the area, while discouraging harmful fishing practices and the hunting of whale sharks.
Palma said: “With 21 years of conservation works, the partnership has allowed both the shale shark and the local community to flourish; this renewal also promises to bring progress and prosperity to Donsol for more years to come.”
Donsol Mayor Josephine Alcantara-Cruz at the renewal of commitment signing has pledged to facilitate the development and improvement of its facilities and the proper management and manwould manage and maintenance of sites while ensuring safety and security to visiting tourists.
This year’s Butanding festival has a new approach where the economics of the festival and environmental concerns have been balanced and sustained.
A colorful street presentation took the center stage on Friday where it was joined by several local contingents and floats depicting images of the Butanding. various trade, cultural and sports events, with three new events added, such as Kayak race, Culinary Contest, and Stakeholders Night.
Other events include: Launching of Butanding Pasalubong Showcase; Street dance and float competition; Food park; Boses Donsolano; Mutya ng Donsol; Drum and Lyre competition; Barayle sa Banwa; Mini Concert; Laro ng Lahi; and a boxing event.
Citing local tourism data, Cruz said the town’s tourism industry has generated P448M in gross revenue where P75M of which go back to the community while P3.5M more go to the coffers of the municipal government. The rest of the amount are spent for national promotions and tourism marketing activities, he added.
Data from the Donsol Tourism Office indicate that from the period January to May this year, some 13,304 tourist arrivals have been reported compared to 10,562 recorded during the same period last year.
Butanding sightings Butanding Interaction teams reported that this season there were 516 whale shark sightings in the waters of Donsol.
Cruz said this year’s sightings of Butanding makes 2019 the best Butanding season ever.
Preservation of Donsol River.
While the town’s tourism industry is booming, environmentalists expressed concern over the operation and exploration of two mining firms in Albay that could threaten the town’s tourism potential which requires conservation of the whale sharks.
Mayor Alcantara in a news conference on Friday also expressed concern over the alleged negative impact of the mining operation in nearby Albay province where mining wastes could contaminate river channels in Albay that link to Donsol river.
Environmentalists are worried that the mining operations could significantly affect tributaries in the towns of Camalig and Jovellar in Albay and through Donsol river where krills abound.
Dr. Ronnel Dioneda, acting vice president for Research Development and Extension of the Bicol University (BU), in his study indicates that krills and planktons grow enormously in Donsol river because of the natural nutrients found in that body of water.
Studies show that Donsol river has very fertile grounds that produce nutrients that attract in the process hundreds of migratory whale sharks to come to visit for their feeding and mating seasons.
Krills and planktons are the food that whale sharks eat, the study said.
Cruz said she had consulted with the DENR in 2017 where she brought to the agency’s attention the negative effects of the mining to Donsol’s environment and tourism industry.
For this reason, the DENR last year held a dialogue with concerned LGUs and stakeholders aimed at teaching the LGUs manage their respective river channels and come up with a comprehensive plan in river conservation and protection measures.
“We are talking here not only of Donsol river but also of other rivers that link to us,” Cruz said.
Called at the meeting were officials from the towns of Camalig, Daraga, Jovellar and Ligao City all in Albay and Pilar and Donsol in Sorsogon province.
Cruz said a strong policy measure should be adopted by the six local government units. “Donsol lies at the receiving end, where there are five other towns from two different adjacent provinces,” she explained.
“We are asking our partner, the World Wide Fund (WWF), to help in initiating measures that would be beneficial to the six affected localities,” Cruz added.