Oslob officials urged to limit daily sandbar visitors to 522

By: Jessa Mae O. Sotto and Jose Santino S. Bunachita April 08,2018 - 10:33 PM

The sandbar on Sumilon Island is one of the island’s tourist attractions. CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON

SUMILON IS. CLOSURE lauded

Aside from the one-week closure for cleanup and rehabilitation of Sumilon Island, the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) has recommended to the Oslob town government that the number of daily visitors especially in the sandbar area of the island be limited from 1,000 visitors to 522.

Joselito “Boboi” Costas, PTO chief, said that this is putting in mind the carrying capacity of visitors of the island and is a way to sustain the cleanliness and protect the marine life there.

The island, located at the southern tip of Oslob town, which is famous for its sandbar and snorkeling site, will be closed to visitors for rehabilitation for a week, starting on Tuesday (April 10) until April 16.

“We conducted a carrying capacity on the sandbar last September through interviews, observations and actual field work. We have arrived at a carrying capacity of 522 persons everyday,” he told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview.

Carrying capacity

Costas said there is a need to control the influx of tourists going to the local government unit (LGU) – operated tourist spot, as overcrowding could only lead to more trash and damaged corals.

“In coming up with the figure, we considered the average time per visit and the limiting factors at the sand bar like weather, tide and the presence of the marine sanctuary nearby,” he said.

For safety of tourists, there is a need to control flow, he said.

Aside from the limiting of guests, he also gave suggestions to local officials on their move to protect the ecotourism of the island.

“Proper observance of protocols such as the use of floating buoys as permanent docking site and prohibition of dropping anchors,” he said.

Prohibiting the use of bamboo poles in pushing boats as this would damage the coral beds, Costas added.

He also encouraged other local government units in the province to follow what officials of Oslob did in order to maintain one of its main tourist attractions next to its whale shark watching activities.

“I guess Oslob LGU is taking a proactive stance which other LGUs should also do, in preparation of the closure of Boracay,” he told CDN.

With the temporary closure of Boracay Island later this month, people in the tourism sector have been bracing for an influx of tourists in Cebu.

Costas said they expect Cebu to be one of the top alternatives of tourists who have to divert their plans with the province’s several beach destinations and flights both domestic and local.

He warned though that local government officials and tourism stakeholders should be mindful of their respective carrying capacities when handling these expected tourists.

Resort reaction

Meanwhile, the management of the resort situated on Sumilon Island clarified that they are not included in the closure on Tuesday.

“The closure affects the area being managed by the local government but the rest of the island is open,” said Erik Monsanto, manager of corporate marketing and communications of Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort, in a phone interview on Sunday.

Oslob Mayor Jose Tumulak earlier said that only the government-owned portion of the island would be closed and that would be the 7-hectare stretch of the island which included the sandbar.

This means that the 17 hectare privately-owned part of the island will remain open.

Although, Monsanto welcomed the move of the local government to rehabilitate the 24-hectare island.

“We are happy with their initiative to clean the island and we are willing to help in the cleanup drive,” he said in Cebuano.

He also assured that the closure of a part of the island would not affect the number of their guests, but they would be looking for other beaches for their guests to visit since the sandbar is off limits for a week even to the resort’s guests.

“There are guests who would want to visit the sandbar, but the mayor has ordered it off-limits for a week so we will comply. There are still other fine beaches on the side of the island which is under our stewardship,” he said in Cebuano.

Regional Director Shalimar Tamano of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) lauded the proactive measures of the local officials in Oslob town, about 118.3 kilometers southeast of Cebu City, to rehabilitate Sumilon Island.

“The mayor is doing his job and it is a good thing. Foremost is the LGU’s (local government unit’s) responsibility to protect the resource that his people are earning from,” Tamano said.

While, other localities famous for its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear seawater also assured that their tourist areas will not be suffering the same fate as Boracay, which is about to face a six-month closure starting this April 26.

He also said that this kind of action or decision (Oslob closing Sumilon Island for a week for rehabilitation) would best be left to the discretion of local officials.

“We are in favor of that (closure). That’s only a week, it’s temporary. I’m sure the mayor knows the details. For us in the regional office, details like that are best left to local elected officials,” he told Cebu Daily News.

He pointed out that decisions like this are in support of the recent approval of President Rodrigo Duterte to close Boracay Island for six months starting April 26.

Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot, for his part, said that there was nothing to fear that northern Cebu’s tourism destination would suffer the same fate as that of Boracay because they had already prepared for such an outcome.

Although, he was not keen on the idea of closing the island for rehabilitation, but he assured that the area is compliant with environmental laws.

He cited the setting up of a satellite office on Malapascua Island, which is made up of the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (Menro), Tourism Office,

Bantay Dagat and the Philippine National Police (PNP), to ensure that environmental laws are observed there.

Aside from fine beaches, Malapascua, situated at the northernmost tip of Cebu, is famous for diving with at least 21 dive spots surrounding the island.

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TAGS: 522, daily, limit, officials, Oslob, sandbar, urged, visitors
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