Hands off Gigantes Islands!
Fisherfolk under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas are opposed to the proposal of the Department of Tourism to close Gigantes Islands in Iloilo province as a “preventive measure” before Gigantes supposedly self-destructs, according to the department.
In our recorded data, around 12,000 residents, mostly fisherfolk, will be affected if the closure pushes through. Gigantes’ tourism industry serves as an alternative source of livelihood for small fishers, because municipal fish catch has dramatically dwindled with the transformation of Gigantes into an ecotourism hub.
We fear that Gigantes Islands might suffer the similar fate of Boracay, which was described by President Duterte as a “cesspool” and shut down for six months.
The Boracay closure has clearly set a precedent for the closure of other tourist islands and coastal communities, to pave the way for big-ticket projects at the expense of our local businesses and fishing rights of small fisherfolk.
We wonder at the need for closure when there are already national and local environmental laws that could protect and preserve marine resources and coastal areas if enforced properly. Why can’t the national and local governments strictly implement these laws to protect our pristine marine resources from corporate aggressors, instead of enforcing total closures that will only adversely affect the livelihood of grassroots stakeholders such as the fisherfolk?
The government must cease and desist from the massive conversion of productive coastal communities and fishing waters into ecotourism hubs, and maintain our marine ecosystems as a source of livelihood for small fisherfolk.
FERNANDO HICAP, national chair, Pamalakaya-Pilipinas, email@example.com
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