Sta Cruz island turning into city dumpsite Print
Friday, 21 July 2017 16:53



A school bag, a used diaper and a catheter.

These seemingly unrelated items have one thing in common.  All were found in waters surrounding Sta Cruz island, a place classified as a protected area and acclaimed as one of the best beaches in the world.

The island is fast becoming a virtual dumpsite for waste coming from the nearby town proper, based on photos taken by the Triton Divers, a group of Zamboanga-based scuba diving enthusiasts and environmentalists.

The dismal state of the waters surrounding the island prompted the divers to rate the island as a 1 or 2 on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.

The rating is far from the classification given by the National Geographic when it ranked the famous pink sands of the Great Sta Cruz island as one of the best beaches in the world.

The newly released photos by the diving group however show another side of Sta Cruz which requires urgent attention by the Zamboanga local government and the community in general.

Divers were able to pick up commonly seen items littering the sea such as bottles, plastic sachets of food and toiletries, and plastic bags entangled with endangered corals.

More alarming however were a school bag, used sanitary napkins and diapers, and even used hospital items such as catheters and syringes which divers were able to place inside several sacks of trash.

The type of materials gathered by the divers led them to conclude that garbage littering the Sta Cruz area do not come solely from island residents and visitors but even consist of improperly disposed waste coming from the city proper.

The photos were taken during the Scubasurero, an event where divers embark on a clean up activity of the seabed.

The activities, held in the years 2015 and 2016, were participated in by Triton and divers from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy.

Triton Dive Team President Jaybee Baginda rated the once pristine island as a 2, placing it on a lower rung among the country's best beaches.

He clarified that they have been conducting the Scubasurero and other types of environmental preservation activities on their own even without help from the local government.

Dr. Mike Macrohon, Triton Divers adviser and third generation diver, said that they have been continuously picking up trash from the seabed not only during Scubasurero events but even during ordinary diving activities.

Macrohon notices that fish come back to the area once a clean up activity is completed.  The continuous arrival of trash brought by the tide however drive the fish away, said Macrohon.

The divers are appealing to the local government to allow them to help in environmental preservation by permitting them to use dive spots in the island even outside of their government- assigned task of identifying specific dive spots in Sta Cruz.

The divers were prohibited from diving in waters off the island by the Protected Area Management Unit (PAMU.)

They were however allowed to dive when conducting an assessment of dive spots on the island.

The divers explained that the spots regularly used by divers in the island have been existing for several decades now.  (Liza Jocson)