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Guimaras – the Emerald Isle

September 5, 2006

Anything Under the Sun

By Atty. Rex S. Salvill

THE vicinity of the tragedy itself is a rich fishing ground of the province which supplies food not only for the island but also for Iloilo City. It is also a virtual aquarium full of coral reefs — habitat of many indigenous exotic marine creatures like decorative fishes, sharks (bagis), manta rays (pagi), octopus (kogita), lobster (banagan), deep sea crabs (kasag), rare delicious sea shell (imbao) and rare red shrimp (pasayan nga pula). As of this writing, already 15.8 square kilometers of coral reefs are already affected in Nueva Valencia alone.

The coral reefs must really be very abundant considering that it was here where the coral stones of the entire Molo church were extracted a hundred years ago. This could have been the reason why the people of Nueva Valencia adopted Santa Ana — the patron saint of Molo, as also their patron saint.

The situs of the 1,100-hectare Taklong Island Marine Reserve of the University of Philippines in the Visayas which conducts scientific experiments on marine life is also here. The first Mariculture Park of the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) was likewise situated here. These two are already reached by the oil spill thus diminishing their scientific values.

There is great fear that the oil spill will spread to the two richest fishing grounds of the country itself – Visayan Sea to the north and Sulu Sea to the east.

The northern waters of Guimaras is an arm of the Visayan Sea. This vast expanse of water borders on Panay, Negros, Cebu, Masbate and Bohol. It is so rich a fishing ground that it once made Estancia (a northern town of Iloilo) as “Alaska of the Philippines”. Its main produce are salmon (guma-a when dried), sardines (tabagak when dried) and squids. These three were canned in Estancia before the war by the government-owned National Canning Factory.

Once the oil spill rush northward on Guimaras Strait, it will cause destructions along its way on the western beaches of Negros Occidental where green shells (in Talisay and Silay) and angel wings shell – the delicious diwal, in Valladolid, Pulupandan and Pontevedra), both abound.

The oil spill will then continue northward laying waste the eastern beaches of Guimaras and Iloilo where most of the fishponds of Iloilo are located (Zarraga, Barotac Nuevo, Dumangas, Ajuy, Concepcion and Balasan). These fishponds produce the most delicious milkfish (bangus) in the country due to its peculiar soil mix created by various kinds of silts from mangroves and flooding rivers. As of this writing, the oil spill has already reached the coastal barangays of Ajuy and Concepcion.

On the other hand, should the oil spill rush southeastward, it will flow into the Sulu Sea which makes Antique the tuna (panit) center of the Philippines next to General Santos. Along the way, it will also damage the beaches in southern Iloilo, western Antique and perhaps, may eventually reach the internationally-famous Boracay in Aklan.

The oil spill will also kill marine animal life on the coastal municipal waters including those inside fish pens (punot) thus depriving thousands of fishermen of their livelihood. As of this writing, in Nueva Valencia alone, more than 4,000 fishermen are already jobless.

The bangus industry aside from being destroyed directly will also be indirectly affected because of the killing of bangus fries in the coasts of Antique – the main source of these fries.

(Click Emerald for the rest of the piece.)

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