There seems to be a developing rift between two regional development councils on the particular issue of whale shark feeding. While RDC-7 of Central Visayas has fully recommended the continuation of feeding of butanding off the shores of Oslob, on the tail-end of Cebu, the RDC-5 in Legazpi city strongly oppose the practice.
For several years now, the presence of whale shark or butanding has placed Donsol town of Sorsogon in the national tourism map. The tourism value of the animals on Bicol waters even prompted the Bureau of the Treasury in coming out with a one hundred peso bill with the famed whale shark grazing the Philippine currency.
While RDC Bicol opposition is premised on the fact that feeding the animals will have negative effects on whale-shark eco-tourism activities in Sorsogon, RDC-7 urges the Department of Tourism to allow tourists feed the sharks on interaction trips in Oslob.
It is very apparent here that the Visayan RDC overture is a precise drastic move of phasing out the whale shark tourism in Bicol and totally shift the industry in their favor.
Even the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in region 7 endorses the practice as there is no law which prohibits the feeding of the animals in Cebu, citing that it is very friendly for the whale sharks.
Whale shark tourism operations in Cebu is mainly managed by a fisherman cooperative which has experienced windfall of revenues last year amounting to over P35 million already.
If the Visayan feeding practice continue, will there be an adverse effect on the Bicol tourism-side? For sure the animals may develop a strong dependence on spare food shoved by the tourists.
While not proven yet that it will bring changes on the health, feeding habits and behavior of the animals, will there be an immediate study on this?
Oftentimes money and greed overshadow the value and welfare of the animals. It may be too late if the goose that lay the golden egg may be threatened with the wrong manhandling of their subsistence.