Sumilon sandbar reopens
AS it reopens the Sumilon sandbar to the public today, the municipal government of Oslob is also set to clean another one of its tourist attractions — Tumalog Falls.
Oslob Mayor Jose Tumulak Jr. announced that they will be closing Tumalog Falls for three days starting today, April 17, for a cleanup.
“We will be cleaning the area from the entrance going down to the waterfalls itself. Whatever garbage we see, we will clean. We will also be cutting the grass along the road,” he said.
At least 50 habal-habal drivers from three different groups, whose main source of income was taking tourists to the falls, will be joining the cleanup.
The cleanup was recommended by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) following an inspection of the waterfalls.
As the public sandbar in Sumilon Island reopens today, Oslob authorities will impose stricter guidelines for boat operators and tourists visiting the attraction.
According to Oslob Tourism Officer Elizabeth Benologa, it was agreed that they will implement a 522 daily limit on tourists visiting the sandbar as suggested by the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office.
“Since there are five boat operators, we have agreed to only allow them to have around 100 tourists per day. We will also be holding a trial run on this,” she said in a press conference at the Sumilon Bluewater Resort yesterday.
Each boat operator owns around two to four boats which cater to tourists who want to visit the sandbar.
They will be required to provide tourists with trash bags so that the island’s guests can keep their own garbage and not leave the trash lying on the island.
Benologa said there are also plans to impose a two to three-hour time limit for tourists staying on the sandbar.
She added this will also ensure that tourists will not end up defecating or urinating when visiting the sandbar which only has one comfort room available for a fee of P20 per use.
Benologa said they are still talking with the mayor if the new rules will be contained in an ordinance which may take longer or just through an executive order to make them more enforceable.
Nevertheless, she said they will try to enforce the rules starting today.
Part of the agreement with stakeholders was to have a designated one-day closure and cleanup of the sandbar every third Wednesday of the month starting May.
As of yesterday morning, members of the Bangcogon Oslob Fishermen Association (BOFA) were busy wrapping up the sandbar cleanup.
BOFA Vice President Rodrigo Magalso vowed that they will make sure to implement the new guidelines.
“Dako gyud og natabang ang pag-close sa sandbar. Magsige naman ni siya kay nasabutan man namo sa mayor nga once a month na mag-cleanup (The closure of the sandbar was a big help. This will continue since we agreed with the mayor to do the cleanup once a month),” he said.
The BOFA, which has around 130 members, was assigned by the municipal government to manage the sandbar as well as the nearby marine sanctuary.
BOFA would collect P50 for every person going to the sandbar. For those diving at the marine sanctuary, P200 will be collected per person and another P200 if they bring a camera.
Fifty percent of the collections will go to the municipal government, 30 percent to BOFA, and 20 percent to Barangay Bangcogon where Sumilon Island is located.
“We will try our best to ensure that the previous lapses will not happen again. We will explain the system clearly to the people,” Magalso said in Cebuano.
SUMILON BLUEWATER’S EFFORTS
Sumilon is a 24-hectare island; but majority or 17 hectares are currently leased to Sumilon Bluewater Resort.
The 50-year lease on the island started in the 1990s although the resort just opened in 2006.
Sumilon Bluewater Resort hosted a tour of their facility for reporters yesterday.
Erik Monsanto, the resort’s marketing communications manager said they have been engaged in efforts to maintain cleanliness.
He showed reporters a septage treatment plant which they use to treat their wastewater which will then be used to water the island’s lush forest cover and its gardens.
“The island is our attraction. That’s why tourists come here. As much as possible, we want to maintain the pristine condition of the island,” he said.
Monsanto said they also support the local government’s decision to temporarily close the public sandbar.
“We believe the LGU should exert control over that area to ensure it is protected since it is the main attraction in the island,” he said.
Monsanto said Bluewater Resort is also offering to assist the local government by putting up signages all over the island announcing the new rules.
Sumilon Bluewater Resort Resident Manager EJ Barretto said the closure of the sandbar did not affect their bookings and it was business as usual for them in the past week.
“There might have been some confusion at the start but it was corrected. The overall effect of this benefits us also. People might be more interested to come here now,” he said.
According to Barretto, they are also doing their best to maintain the “carrying capacity” of the island by making sure that not too many tourists visit the resort which positions itself as an exclusive destination.
The resort has 31 rooms which can accommodate an average of two people each; while their day tour guests are between 50 to 150 people daily.
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