The mayor of Dumanjug, a beachside town in the province of Cebu in central Philippines, has provoked the ire of many environmentalists. He recently suggested in a formal summit the killing of all dolphins, and whales in a nearby fishing area to reduce competition for local fishermen.
Nelson Garcia, mayor of the third-class municipality of Dumanjug – a minor player in the Philippine fishing industry – recently voiced his unpopular sentiment during a meeting that discussed plans for managing the nearby Tanon Strait, a protected seascape between the provinces of Cebu and Negros. The meeting was attended by local and international environmentalists and scientists, and also by various government officials from other parts of Cebu island, according to the Manila Bulletin.
During sideline interviews with reporters, Garcia adamantly expressed his support for “regulating” the dolphins and whales residing in the strait. He said, “The whales are competing with the fishermen. Right now, I allow. If they catch a whale, kill the whale. Why not?”
When reporters reminded Garcia that the killing of dolphins, whales and whale sharks is punishable by Philippine laws, Rappler reported that the unyielding mayor quoted the bible to justify his statements.
“Man should be the first to survive, not the whales, not the fish because we will be violating the Bible. God said man have dominion over the ocean, the fishes, the birds, the animals and subdue it. That is the order of God.”
He also ignored inquiries of whether he was aware of scientific studies confirming that the existence of whales and dolphins resulted to healthier oceans, only answering back with, “that’s just a theory.”
Tanon Strait is a migratory path for large marine species, according to Liza Osorio, lawyer for the Philippine Earth Justice Center, who was also present during the summit. Despite disagreeing with mayor Garcia’s anti-dolphin statements, Osorio commended him for stating his unpopular opinions in front of international environmentalists and scientists.
“He may have been the only one brave enough to say those things. Maybe the other [local officials] have the same understanding. I welcome any debate on that. If it’s a way to increase their knowledge and bring them over to our side, that’s our challenge.”
A number of dolphin and whale species, some of which can only be seen within Philippine waters, are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
[Image from David McNew/Getty Images]