The Cebu community newspaper, The Freeman (Jan. 13, 2011) included a report on a proposed massive reclamation in Panglao Bay, Bohol by a private firm. The newspaper report said that about 300 fishermen and residents of three villages were pushing for government approval of the proposed project. The report also stated that the project proponents had assured the group of “alternative livelihood and biodiversity enhancement.”
I am writing this column based on above-mentioned newspaper report, supplemented by information from other sources.
I would like the Boholanos to consider carefully this proposed project because reclamation has some dire consequences in the immediate and long-term future.
While the promise of more sources of livelihood may appear dazzling, yet there is some uncertainty connected with the project.
One is the negative impact of climate change, particularly the extreme weather elements, that threatens all islands and archipelagos of the world, including Panglao Island.
This is the reason why it is always necessary to consider the Precautionary Principle when we attempt to tinker with nature, especially in small islets and islands because we know far less than what we think we now know.
Panglao and Bohol Island came into their present form as a result of millions of years of natural processes resulting in their present stable status.
These two islands, despite their proximity to Cebu Island, are very different from the latter. Take for example, Bohol’s biodiversity (including marine and terrestrial species), which is so different from that of Cebu.
This is the reason Bohol is so unique. This uniqueness explains why Bohol has emerged as favorite destination for ecotourism, which is already providing a large source of income for the Boholanos. There is, therefore, good reason to preserve this uniqueness.
Any attempt to alter the stable, natural conditions, which required millions of years to build, is bound to cause disruptions in the natural functioning of ecosystems.
For example, by creating islands in the bay, a lot of changes in seawater flow and movement would occur. Such things as land erosion, sedimentation, altered direction of ocean currents will occur that would negatively affect ocean productivity (as measured by such indicators as plankton, fisheries yield, primary productivity, etc.).
We have seen all these happening in the country, indicating that our islands are very susceptible to extreme weather conditions.
And this is the view of those studying the vulnerability of the Philippines to climate change. During the past few years, destruction of coastal areas on Bantayan Island, Negros Island, Apo Island, etc. is a preview of what might happen in the future.
Artificial islands are unstable geologically, and buildings constructed on such unstable substrates could topple over with the combined effects of sea level rise, and stormy weather already occurring in the country.
It is a folly to even think of creating coral reefs in artificial island passages because corals require a pristine environment and thousands of years to grow and develop their natural assemblages of marine species.
Those who think people can do better than nature are in for a surprise. Thus, massive reclamation can become a prelude to massive destruction of the natural resources of Panglao Island.
I suggest that government and Boholanos think deeply, availing themselves of the best information provided by the sciences of marine biology, oceanography, fisheries, and geology as guide to development.