Loot: Island off Malapascua a dive spot, not a shabu lab
Known for its underwater cave and being a habitat of diverse marine species like sea snakes, white tip and marble ray sharks, Isla de Gato is an enchanting islet.
Less than 3,000 square meters in size, it is located off the famed Malapascua Island in Cebu’s northern town of Daanbantayan and is considered as the area’s favored dive site, second only to Monad Shoal.
But the islet is also alleged to be where a shabu laboratory owned by Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot is located and, as such, is off limits to people.
Loot yesterday described as lies the allegation that he owned the islet, the photos of which were circulated and had gone viral online.
“These are fabrications. Isla de Gato is an island where pumpboats can’t dock. It does not have docking area,” Loot said.
Loot was reacting to an article entitled “LOOK: This island is allegedly owned by ex-general Loot” that was posted on filipinewsph.com.
Loot said this was a fake online site and those behind this account were capitalizing on the charges leveled at him.
Loot is one of five former and active Philippine National Police officials identified by President Rodrigo Duterte as allegedly protecting drug lords in the country.
When asked if he knows who is behind the “fake account,” Loot replied that most of them could be drug addicts and users that have an axe to grind against him.
Isla de Gato (Gato Island) has been declared as a shark and ray sanctuary together with Monad Shoal in an executive order signed by former Daanbantayan mayor Augusto Corro on June 2 last year.
Loot said even tourists and regular divers visit Isla De Gato.
Dennis Bryan Bait-it, executive director for Project Sharklink, a group based in Malapascua Island, said they are still conducting regular dives in the area.
Bait-it said the island is inhabited and there used to be a guard house there.
Regional Director Andres Bojo of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-7) said it is the municipal government that should investigate if there is anything irregular there.
“We will intervene if there are requests for assistance,” Bojo added.
Provincial Board (PB) Member Sun Shimura also laughed off allegations that Isla de Gato is owned by Loot and is protected by armed guards.
Shimura said Isla de Gato was declared as a marine sanctuary in 1988. “These people are just making stories,” he said.
Shimura also dared those people behind the account to go for a dive at Isla de Gato.
“I will pay for their diving and training fee,” he said.
Shimura said he will ask for assistance from agencies to investigate the “fake account” that posted the claim online.
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