If you ever visited the island of Negros, you’ve probably heard about Apo Island, a beautiful secluded paradise covering 74 hectares. The island is famous for its exceptional scuba diving and snorkeling with turtles. Nowadays, around 1000 people live on the island, mainly depending on tourism and fishing.
In late 2022, the local government (Dauin LGU) and the Barangay in Apo Island proposed building a jetty for the diving paradise. It’s worth mentioning that Apo Island has been a protected area on both land and sea since 1994, with different levels of protection. Some areas are strict “no-take” zones, like the Marine Sanctuary on the southeast side of the island, while other areas have more flexible rules to support sustainable living and use. The Marine Sanctuary was established in 1985 by the local community, in collaboration with Silliman University, particularly with the help of late Prof. Dr. Angel Alcala, before the island received its protected status.
Living on a small island means that almost everything, including fuel, food, drinking water, and other products, needs to be transported by sea. For Apo Island, this is done using pump boats. Given the challenges of boarding a pump boat from the shore, especially on windy days while carrying heavy water containers, having a jetty would be beneficial for the locals and everyone else. The proposed location for the jetty was discussed during a meeting of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), which regulates the Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (AIPLS). However, two members of the board, Prof. Dr. Eileen Maypa and Prof. Dr. Janet Estacion, raised concerns about the chosen location. It happened to be the same beach where the Marine Sanctuary is situated.
The Marine Sanctuary is the largest “no-take” zone in AIPLS and has been the subject of numerous scientific studies by institutions like Silliman University. It plays a crucial role in supporting the surrounding areas by helping fish populations thrive both inside and outside its boundaries, which benefits the locals who depend on fishing. Moreover, the coral reef inside the Marine Sanctuary suffered significant damage from two typhoons in 2012 and is still in the process of recovering.
To address the concerns raised, a Workgroup was formed by the PAMB, which sought assistance from various institutions, including local government units (LGUs), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local NGOs, and the university faculty. The Workgroup conducted a Literature review and submitted a document with information on the potential impacts of the proposed jetty. The results were presented and discussed in a meeting in Dumaguete, where all collaborators shared their findings. The group concluded that protecting the Sanctuary was a top priority and proposed two alternative locations for the jetty, along with a new construction design using floating pontoons and natural rocky flats at the coast, rather than the original plan with larger pillars over the sea.
We were thrilled to be part of the Workgroup and provide advice on such matters, especially using science to achieve balanced environmental protection and meet the basic needs of the islanders. It was a pleasure to witness the management of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the collaborative process with institutions like MCP.
Would you join us for some diving in Apo Island one of these days?