MAMBAJAO, CAMIGUIN—As the province opened its two-month diving festival here, outgoing Gov. Maria Luisa Romualdo urged visitors and divers to help protect Camiguin’s marine life, especially its coral reefs, which have become among the island province’s prime attractions.
“We hope we can get more divers, responsible tourists, who would help us maintain our dive spots,” Romualdo told the crowd of divers, visitors and locals during the opening ceremony of the first Camiguin Dive Festival at Lagundi Beach here last week.
“So, anything you see in the marine-protected areas or in the dive spots which you think can destroy our coral reefs or our fish, please feel free to remove it. I will give you that authority (to take them away),” she said, referring to fish traps oftentimes found on corals and which had been proven to be destructive.
The two-month festival runs from June 23 to Aug. 31 and will showcase such activities as Scubasurero (or scuba diving to remove underwater garbage), fun dive, dive classes and an underwater photography contest.
Romualdo said the province had been taking care of its marine-protected areas by organizing residents and fisherfolk to safeguard Camiguin’s 30 dive sites and fish sanctuaries around the island.
Mambajao Mayor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo, who won as governor in the May 13 elections, said that with the help of divers, the provincial government would work hard to keep Camiguin’s coral reefs pristine and “dive-worthy.”
“I’m really banking on the dive resorts and all the divers that come here. Help me preserve this beautiful island. I cannot do this alone,” Romualdo said.
“What makes Camiguin’s corals and other underwater life still intact after the occurrence of volcanic eruptions in the past is in itself a cause for wonder and amazement,” he added. “Divers have been telling us that it’s more beautiful under the water.”
Veteran diver and underwater photographer Bo Mancao said he considered Camiguin unique as one of the country’s volcanic reef islands.
“I keep coming back here and I keep finding new stuff—be it coral, be it fish, be it invertebrate. There’s always something new in Camiguin,” Mancao said.
He said he was impressed by how clean the coral reefs were, attributing it to how the local government managed trash disposal.
Diver and blogger Gian Carlo Jubela said he was surprised that Black Forest, a part of the coral reef near the White Island, was free of garbage despite the number of tourists regularly flocking to its sandbar.
“We do hope that it can be maintained. The ocean is life, and if the oceans die, the planet dies,” Jubela said.
Candice Naome Dael, Camiguin provincial tourism officer, said the local government was expecting that the dive festival would bring in more tourists to the island in Northern Mindanao.