Everyone knows about Nasugbu or Punta Fuego when you talk about Batangas — lovely turquoise beaches with soft sand and swaying palm trees, the perfect picture of tropical paradise. But these places are known to most tourists, and it’s become increasingly harder to book a resort, let alone find a spot where you can swim and explore in peace. Sometimes you just want a peaceful retreat that’s unspoiled and out of the way, close enough to Manila to remain convenient, but far enough to steer clear of the holiday crowd.
Fortunately, Lobo is just such a place, which is still just a hop and a skip away in Batangas. Lobo is not just barako country. A third-class municipality located in the south of Batangas, Lobo is known by a seasoned handful of travelers as a haven of light gray sandy beaches, perfect diving points and protected mangrove forests. Underwater Photographers who don’t mind going off the beaten path can be found slipping off to Lobo to take pictures of the coral and marine life from the dive sites.
The pristine environment can be attributed to the fact that majority of Lobo’s local population are protecting its natural resources: the Submarine Garden, upon closer examination, was a sanctuary that attracted so many schools of fish that it was declared a protected area, preserving the abundance of marine life in Lobo.
The crystal-clear water is a testament to the efforts to keep the municipality as untouched as possible, even as more small hotels have sprung up to accommodate the number of travelers who come every year. Nowhere is this more evident than the nearby Verde Island Passage. This strait is the center of the world’s Marine Biodiversity and one of the busiest sea lanes in the country, connecting Batangas with other nearby provinces such as Marinduque and Romblon.
Marine Life in Verde Island Passage – Coral reef in the Philippines’ Verde Island Passage. (Photo: © CI/ photo by Sterling Zumbrunn) Conservation.org
Despite the level of sea traffic, the water remains as clear here as in Lobo, as it is considered one of the best diving areas in the country, and was declared the Center of the Marine Shorefish Biodiversity. Many species that are threatened all over the world can be spotted here, from the rare humphead wrasse to various kinds of sea turtles, taking refuge in the vibrant coral of Verde Island.
Gold Mining in Lobo
It is truly one of the most amazing places to go to in the Philippines—in all of Asia, in fact. But this natural glory is facing a new threat: Gold Mining. Mining does have the power to create local jobs and provide us a local source of precious metals.
Verde Island by Dastreetfilmer – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
In Lobo’s case, it is gold mining which is being proposed. According to an online petition posted at Change.org, Egerton Gold Philippines, Inc. submitted plans to mine for gold in approximately 263 square hectares of land in Lobo, Batangas, which will encompass most of the barangays near the coastlines of Verde Island passage. 263 hectares would be equivalent to excavating the size of two Bonifacio Global Cities in Lobo. Based on the proposal submitted by Egerton Gold Philippines, Inc., not only would the local communities be uprooted from their homes, but even local flora and fauna would be affected by the mining activity.
No matter how many jobs mining operations create, they have a devastating effect on the surrounding areas. Leaching chemicals into the water and soil, which will kill off animal and plant life, polluting sources of drinking water, cutting down trees which help provide such clean air…the list goes on and on when it comes to the negative effects of mining operations.
Malabrigo Point Lighthouse in Lobo, a cultural heritage monument – by Peter ang01 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Overexploitation of resources in various parts of the Philippines have gone on unchecked for too long, and in Lobo’s case, it will certainly tip the balance towards destroying ecotourism and marine diversity in such a valuable protected sanctuary for rare creatures. All anyone has to do to know how badly mining will affect Lobo is to look up mining operations in places such as Leyte, where mining had so greatly damaged the landforms around it that the regular rainy season led to landslides that killed people and dispossessed families of their livelihoods and property.
Sustainable ecotourism, not mining, should be the way to go for Lobo. The unspoiled beauty of the Verde Island passage and its fish sanctuaries should remain precisely that: unspoiled. With local legislative efforts and public support, perhaps there is a way to keep Lobo the shining gem of Batangas.
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