Saturday, July 14, 2012

San Joaquin: A Hidden Luxury of Coves in a Network of Marine Protected Areas

Coastal tourism and recreation are important parts of the largest most rapidly growing activity in the province of Iloilo. Tourism and recreation-related development is one of the major factors shaping development patterns in the coastal municipalities of Iloilo.

Local tourism in Iloilo, much of it coastal-motivated, provides significant economic benefits that relate directly to Iloilo’s position in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Coastal tourism and recreation embraces the full range of tourism, leisure, and recreationally oriented activities that take place in the coastal zones and the offshore coastal waters. These include the development of resorts, restaurants, vacation homes, and the infrastructure supporting coastal development such beaches, dive shops, fishing and recreational boating areas. Recreational activities such as swimming, recreational boating, recreational fishing, snorkeling and diving.

It is common knowledge that these human activities have environmental impact on the variety of life in our seas. Establishing a Marine Protected Area is one of the tools that can be used to ensure such activities do not have an unacceptable environmental impact in our seas.

Numerous Ilonggos may have holiday at a Marine Protected Area and is not aware of it. If you have gone snorkeling in Concepcion, fishing in Carles and Banate, boating in Ajuy or swimming in San Joaquin, you have probably been one of the many visitors to a Marine Protected Area.

A Marine Protected Area or MPA is a geographic area with discrete boundaries that has been designated to enhance the conservation of marine resources. It is a versatile management tool that maintains biological productivity, and support sustainable marine fisheries.

A “Marine Reserve” is a subset of this definition, and includes restrictions on some or all extractive activities. These threats can contribute to impacts such as decreased abundance of target organisms, habitat loss, ecosystem degradation and a sense of aesthetic and spiritual loss of wilderness value.

San Joaquin's Marine Protected Areas form networks of remarkable places along its coasts that protect its municipal’s incredible variety of marine life and help sustain its communities. As a developed town in the province with a rich and important maritime area, San Joaquin has a special responsibility for the conservation and management of its marine and coastal environment and its resources. In order to establish a representative network of marine protected areas, San Joaquin’s marine environment has been classified and a range of habitats and ecosystems were represented.

The identified barangays formed the basis for classification and implementation of the MPA Policy set by the town. In 2011, the classification outlined 15 out of the town’s 85 barangays and are as follows: Pagang-Guibongan Marine Sanctuary in barangays Tapikan and Manhara; Crossing Dapuyan Turtles Marine Sanctuary; Tambi-Tambi Marine Sanctuary; Talisayan Marine Sanctuary; Baybay Marine Sanctuary; Igbangal Marine Sanctuary in barangay Siwaragan; Masagod Marine Sanctuary, Sta. Rita Marine Sanctuary; Tiolas Marine Sanctuary; Balabago Marine Sanctuary, Basang-Basa Marine Sanctuary in barangay Amboyu-an; Cata-an Marine Sanctuary; Igcundao Marine Sanctuary; Bugnayan Marine Sanctuary in barangays Lawigan and Igcadlum, and the more popular Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary in barangay Sinogbuhan.

The Kuliatan or Sinogbuhan Marine Sanctuary in barangay Sinogbuhan is 22 kilometers from the town center. It is the last barangay of San Joaquin with a total population of 1,700. The sanctuary is 35 kilometers from Anini-y of the province of Antique. It became an MPA via Municipal Ordinance No. 7 series of 2009 as amended by Municipal Ordinance No. 2011-4.

The sanctuary aims to restore the underwater condition in the area allowing fish stock to regenerate through time with the help of the Local Marine Sanctuary Management Board with Excalibur Seterra, Municipal Coordinator Coastal Resource Management Program, George Mendoza, Operations Unit Manager and Raymundo Sican, Barangay Captain.

The Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary contains an array of marine biodiversity in the area. It’s neighboring marine sanctuaries contain many fish varieties and species of invertebrates, plants and micro-organisms. From its beautiful cove are known fishes such as the clown fish, butterfly fish, angel fish, damsel fish, surgeon fish, lion fish and sweet lips. Also common in the area are blue and crown of thorns type of starfish, crabs, gastropods, giant clams and colorful corals.

The sanctuary is fast-becoming a tourism attraction of the town. At present it has a pavilion/ reception hall made of bamboo and can hold a small group lecture activity. It also has a bamboo house that can accommodate a group of 4-6 for those who would want to stay overnight at a very minimal fee of P400.00. 

CPU sophomore tourism students for TUMANDOK 20112-San Joaquin group with Mrs. Erlyn Alunan-Municipal Tourism Officer and Excalibur Seterra-Municipal Coordinator Coastal Resource Management Program

It has a viewing deck that is connected by a bamboo bridge suspended between two huge coral rocks. It has a refreshment hut that serves carbonated drinks and junk foods. Although the caretakers do not demand for an entrance fee, donations are accepted to support future development programs for the area. The swimming area is delineated with bouys, with markers and signages to mark about the do’s and don’ts in the area. 

To get to Kuliatan Marine Sanctuary, one can take a San Joaquin-Lawigan jeepney at the Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary in Oton. When in San Joaquin proper, one can also take a tricycle ride to the area with a contracted rate of P200.00.

For more information, please contact Barangay Captain Raymundo Sican at 09186516932, Mr. Goerge Mendoza at 09212609866 or Mrs. Erlyn Alunan, Municipal Tourism Officer at 09179857804.

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