Cebu whale shark watching restricted

Whale of an experience Cebu’s major tourist draw has caused much furor not just among visitors from around the world, but also from various animal rights group concerned about the well-being of these giant tourist attractions.                 LARRY PAYAWAL

For fear of becoming another Boracay, Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Almendras Magpale yesterday disclosed that they have set up restrictions on the internationally renowned tourism attraction in Cebu, whale whark watching in the town of Oslob.

“We don’t have to wait for President Duterte to order the closure and rehabilitation of Oslob like Boracay,” Magpale said.

The Vice Governor, who is the chairperson of the Provincial Tourism Commission, explained that the number of guests/watchers from an average of 1,000 daily will be reduced to 800, as agreed among tour operators, boatmen and government agencies that regulate the tourism activities in the area.

She added the welfare of the environment should not be taken for granted to maximize economic gains.

The agreed allowable number of tourists will be divided among the 182 accredited boatmen in Barangay Tan-awan.

Locally known as butanding, the whale shark has for the past 15 years been a tourist attraction that boosted the economy of what used to be a fourth-class municipality, now a first-class municipality.

The Department of Tourism has suggested putting up a centralized reservation center for the booking of guests.

Magpale said that booking system will be patterned from that of the Palawan Underground River.

On the average, the boatmen earn about P3,500 daily and, in general, the whale watching rakes in P1 million per day.

Since there will be a reduction in revenues daily, the boatmen have requested an increase in the rates for whale shark watching.

The Cebu official reiterated that they may increase the rates, but on condition that all facilities and amenities are already in place.

There are only three areas in the world that offer fish feeding and whale shark watching: two in Indonesia and one in the Philippines, which is Oslob.

Among other concerns, Magpale reiterated the need for accessible comfort rooms and parking spaces as raised by the Cebu Association of Tour Operators.

The local government of Oslob is negotiating a one-hectare lot near the whale shark watching orientation center as potential parking spaces.

However, the Vice Governor revealed the price of the lot is too high.