By Nikka Garriga
BOLJOON, CEBU—The Department of Tourism (DoT) urged the public to be mindful of the laws and guidelines set by local government units (LGUs) on proper interaction with butandings or whale sharks.
Tourism Sec. Ramon Jimenez Jr. emphasized that tourism should go together with the protection and conservation of marine animals.
The agency is also looking at conducting awareness training on marine conservation for LGUs and communities in parts of the Philippines where whale sharks are frequently observed.
“We need to heighten people's awareness and capacitate the community to effectively manage the interaction, so that it will not cause undue harm or disturbance to the normal behavior of the sharks,” Jimenez stressed.
The need to strictly enforce such guidelines came after a photo of a girl riding a whale shark along the shoreline of Barangay Granada in Boljoon, Cebu went viral online.
According to local executives, the butanding was allegedly trapped in the net of fishermen. They opted to bring it near the shore after having difficulties freeing the butandingwhile in deeper water.
The whale shark was later released into the open sea.
A technical working group was established to formulate guidelines and monitor systems to ensure that this tourism attraction benefits communities.
The regional office of DoT teamed up with Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for an awareness caravan on marine conservation,including proper butanding interaction.
“BFAR Regional Director Andres Bojos agreed to partner with us in conducting an Awareness Caravan in May during the Month of the Ocean aimed at raising awareness on marine protection and conservation, and promoting a culture of tourism,” said DoT Region 7 director Rowena Montecillo said.
Measures are now being undertaken to conduct further research on the migratory pattern of the whale sharks.
(Photo by wildlife photographer Jurgen Freund for WWF Philippines)
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