Fishermen in the coastal barangay of Looc in Dumaguete City, supported by scuba divers and marine environmental advocates, are pushing for the protection of coral reefs that could be endangered by a planned port expansion project.
On Saturday, divers took photos of the coral areas to disprove reports that there were no coral formations or that these were already “dying,” and would not be affected by the planned construction of a berthing dolphin, a structure for protecting the pier of a bridge or other structure from collision with ships, by the Philippine Ports Authority.
A proposed ordinance to declare the area as a marine protected area is pending at the Dumaguete City Council.
Steve De Neef, a professional scuba diver and photographer, who went with other scuba divers and marine biologists on Saturday’s dive, noted that while the coral reefs are not as impressive compared to areas visited by tourists, these will still provide a natural habitat for fish and other marine life.
Fishermen in Looc have reported seeing turtles in the area.
“I can’t say it is a pristine, amazing reef as there is definitely damage, but some parts are still very nice and if those parts stay healthy, the fish will stay,” De Neef said.
He added that fish also eat algae from the dead part of the reef, that gives it a better chance of recovering. It is important for the fishermen's livelihood that the part of the reef that's still healthy stays that way, he stressed.
“There's never been a more crucial time for protecting our ocean. The fishermen here are not the big commercial fishing boats that do a lot of damage; they are just trying to make a living in an already overfished area”, De Neef added.
The PPA in Dumaguete had announced that the area is a port zone owned by the government. It is awaiting results of an underwater survey that was earlier conducted by its central office before to the implementation of the project.*JFP
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