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Could Mantique Island be a heritage on a borrowed time?

Ped T. Quaimjot
BusinessWeek Mindanao

SITUATED at the western side of mainland Camiguin Province, Mantique is one of the many coral islands that comprise the beauty of the Philippines as islands paradise.

Mantique Island is formed by corals and shapes by the wave pattern of the Mindanao Sea. It is accessible under a regulated trip of bancas and outriggers from the Port of Benoni or from the Municipality of Mahinog.

In the year 2004, it has been declared by the Provincial Government of Camiguin and the DENR as a protected area and a sea turtle sanctuary.

It is a no man’s land that resulted to the relocation of some 40 family settlers mostly fishermen who have illegally settled in the island for years. Families have been resettled to the mainland. Others have gone back to the coastal towns of Misamis Oriental and many more traced their roots to the Province of Bohol.

Of course the bold initiative of Governor Jurdin Jesus M. Romualdo is not without government assistance to rebuild the lives of the fishermen settlers. Saving and preserving the environment has its own cost. Left alone with local government funds cannot be done. It needs partner from foreign donors like the government of New Zealand.

Mantique is just like the many islands and islets in the Philippines that must be preserved from the pressure of today’s lifestyle. Small islands with limited resources that rely on nature to survive are temporal relief from the things that distract us. The healing power of sea water, the rhythm of the waves washed ashore transforms a Zen of vigor and renewal.

Mantique Island is a perfect landscape for photography. It is strategically position that both sunrise and sunset can be captured during a daylong visit. Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but memories when you are in photo safari to the island.

But could the preservation effort be sustainable? Are plans noble and truthful that the island will not be sold to international resort investors? Calamitan Islands in Palawan is a diving ground until it was sold to the Singapore based Banyan Tree Resort where a huge hotel and resort structure is now built and will open in 2012. How many more of our islands will be exploited and turned into another Boracay?

The color of money is irresistible and our search for investors and greed tops our priorities over the environment. Development of Mantique Island into a resort is not allowed according to the Provincial Administrator when interviewed over the phone. It is to be preserved as an eco-system.

The Inconvenient Truth lectures of former US Vice President Albert Gore on climate change reminds us on the importance of Mantique Island as a barrier for rising sea water that may affect the mainland Camiguin in the years to come.

How it can withstand the strong waves from the western approach of Mindanao Sea and serve as back stopped to reduce its ferocious strength?
The significant of the flora and fauna in the island left untouched are our living witness to a heritage of the future.