Panglao’s coastal and underwater cleanup to encourage beachgoers to be responsible travelers

Panglao Island in Bohol province received the attention and care recently as government officials, marine biology experts, and tourism stakeholders took part in coastal and underwater cleanup and improvement of marine sanctuary in the island known for its white powdery beaches and rich marine life.

The environment conservation activities were done in partnership with AirAsia Philippines, with the participation of over 300 volunteers, including celebrities and personalities. The cleanup was also part of the 2nd Panglao Dive Festival and the 1st DIVE7 Summer Event of the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Province of Bohol, and the Municipality of Panglao.

The coastal cleanup of the three-kilometer Doljo beach and Mangrove area in the western part of Panglao Island resulted in the collection of around 750 kilos of garbage consisting of plastic bottles, plastic bags, styrofoams, and aluminum snack packagings.

Volunteers from various hotels, restaurants, celebrities, diving schools, and different civic organizations held their garbage bags and joined the coastal cleanup while also observing strict health protocols.  The amount of garbage collected during the three-hour activity showed there is still more to do to protect the environment.

A total of 35 artificial coral beds that cover 560 square feet of the Doljo Marine Sanctuary were planted with live and recently grown corals.  Two-hundred dive-volunteers transferred corals to different coral beds at the marine sanctuary. 

 

The dive-volunteers also cleared the beds of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, which are a prime cause of coral loss.  The activity, which lasted for two hours successfully relocated recovering corals to their new hosts.  Once mature enough, the corals will be transferred to deeper locations such as Balicasag island.  

The two-day environmental conservation activities in Panglao was part of a concerted effort to prepare the tourism haven for a strong rebound especially now that leisure travel is allowed.

AirAsia Philippines partnered with celebrities Tim Yap, Daniel Matsunaga, Markii Stroem and Marie Lozano who share the same advocacy for the protection of the environment.

The activity not only underscores the importance of protecting our environment, but also sends a strong message of creating sustainable tourism that can be enjoyed responsibly, according to AirAsia Philippines.  

“We would like to use our platform to encourage our guests to become responsible travelers.  By participating in environmental conservation activities, we would like to emphasize that protecting our environment is now part of a new and better normal.  Being responsible extends to your destination.  You are not just there to enjoy the sights, but also take an active role in protecting and preserving the environment,” AirAsia spokesperson Steve Dailisan said.

“Activities such as the coastal cleanup and coral reef rescue create awareness and curiosity among tourists especially now that people would prefer going out and enjoying nature tripping rather than socialize in an enclosed room.  This is the right time to engage them and make them responsible travelers,” Department of Tourism Region 7 Director Shalimar Hofer Tamano said.

Panglao is home to some of the world’s best diving sites such as Balicasag Island, Doljo Point, Tawala Sanctuary, Puntod, Netune Garden and Napaling.

The Panglao Tourism Office however, noted that in 2013, a coastal research assessment revealed that less than 10% of the Doljo sea which serves as the main hub to all the diving spots, is covered with corals.  Disturbances like poaching and discharges from different establishments affected the growth of the corals.  The coral reef rescue and restoration which started in 2014 managed to populate the coral bed. As of 2020, 70% of the Doljo sea is now covered with corals. 

The local government of Panglao said it is also important to regulate and manage activities in the area to facilitate sustainable growth of the new corals.  As soon as the new corals grow, species of fishes will be attracted to form new colonies, thereby increasing fish densities and attracting more tourists as well.

Raquel P. Gomez
Special Features writer at Philippine Daily Inquirer. She is tasked to write anything under the sun, but certain topics appeal to her personally, like technology, gardening, cooking, food, movies, TV series, heritage and historical areas, and travel. You may email her at rgomez@inquirer.com.ph