Sumilon Island, just off the coast of Oslob, Cebu was always a famous stop for Scuba divers and tourists. With the popularity of the Whale Shark watching in Oslob increasing over the last five years, the popularity of Sumilon Island also increased massively. Being touted by some as “Little Boracay”, it is also closing down like the famous tourist destination in the Aklan province. However, being “little”, the closure is only short. Oslob Mayor Jose Tumulak Jr. announced that they would be temporarily closing portions of Sumilon Island to visitors starting this Tuesday, April 10 until April 16, a Monday.
Clean-Up of Sumilon Island
The closing of Sumilon Island for the public give way for an intensive, cleanup drive, and rehabilitation efforts on the island’s sandbar and snorkeling site, which are visited by about a thousand domestic and foreign tourists every day. Tumulak said pieces of garbage left uncollected since the Holy Week on these areas prompted them to decide to halt visits and day tour activities on the island’s famous sandbar to allow them to first clean up its shorelines.
We will temporarily close the island due to loads of garbage left by tourists who overcrowded the island during the Holy Week. We saw photos of the heaps of garbage on the island and our staff there could no longer handle the cleanup by themselves.
…We human beings need rest. And mother nature needs to rest, too…
Tumulak’s announcement came just a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte approved the six-month closure of Boracay Island starting this April 26, and a month since the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) intensified their crackdown on resorts, located in tourist-famous islands, that do not comply waste-management laws.
As early as last Thursday, April 5, Tumulak said they started putting up posters and tarpaulins and handed out flyers in some areas frequented by the public in Oslob to inform every one of the upcoming, cleanup drive in Sumilon Island. He said resort owners and tour operators were also informed to not include in their package a trip to the island for a week. There are at least seven tour operators based in Oslob that offer Sumilon Island in their package.
Closing Sumilon Island welcomed by public and private Sector
The decision of the municipal government to temporarily close portions of Sumilon Island was met with praises both from the public and private sectors in Cebu province. Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale commended Tumulak for taking the initiative. The Cebu Association of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos) also welcomed the decision of the local government unit (LGU) of Oslob.
Alice Queblatin, president of Catos notified all the 42 members of Catos about the news and gave them the discretion to make necessary adjustments if needed. All members of Catos include Sumilon Island in their tour packages. The Tour Operators can look for other areas to swim. It is going to be a big impact, and it’s not going to be a big challenge for their daily operation. They were informed about this already and there was no objection from the group. No resolution to protest the decision of the LGU in Oslob was made. It’s a proactive measure to make all aware and more concerned about the environment.
More about Sumilon Island
Sumilon Island is situated around the southern tip of Oslob, which is famous for whale shark watching activities. To reach the 24-hectare island, tourists will have to take a 30-minute ride via a motorized banca from Barangay Tan-awan in mainland Oslob.
The island is known as a favorite stopover for tourists who want to swim with whale sharks (locally called as butanding) in the waters off Barangay Tan-awan, Oslob, a fourth-class municipality located 125 kilometers southeast of Cebu City. Aside from the sandbar, a snorkeling site and a centuries-old watchtower, all of which are managed by the local government of Oslob, a privately-owned resort can also be found on Sumilon Island. It is also 200 meters away from a marine sanctuary facing Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental.