Bontod Reef in Masbate City is 2nd most resilient reef in Central Philippines

buntod-reef2     Masbate City's Bontod reef has been showing its "excellent ability to recover and return to its desirable state following a disturbance" or its resilience. In Central Philippines in fact, among 18 reefs assessed by a group of marine scientists comprised of Abner Bucol, Angel Alcala, Jasper Leif Maypa and Doris Dalanon, Bontod Reef ranked 2nd most resilient while Bugsayon Reef, both in Masbate Pass, ranked first.

In the context of local fisheries and how it is affected by disturbances the extent by which we can anticipate fisheries decline and therefore prepare for what lies ahead is largely hinged on the resilience of its coral reefs. Fortunately Masbate City shows it has a fighting chance in the way its Buntod Marine Reserve, a shoal 10 m deep functions, Tito Velza, chief City Coastal Resources Management Office declares.

He cites three reasons: "We have thriving conch shells locally known as budyong, a widely acknowledged predator of crown of thorns sea star that has feeds on coral reefs". In as show -and tell manner Mr. Velza showed four helmet shells freshly obtained from the waters of Buntod reef to prove his point. Second, strict protection from fishing caused the shift from the area being heavily covered with brown algae, Sargassum to its live coral cover now at 30-40 percent. With strict protection done in the last five years, parrotfishes and surgeonfishes increased and fed on brown algae. Third, is the reefs' proximity to deep water in Masbate Pass, a deterrent to growing fishing effort commonly occurring in shallow municipal water.

The City Mayor of Masbate, Hon. Socrates Tuason ardently supports the Bontod Reef protection. In an interview he acknowledges ecotourism -based livelihood assistance recently extended by the Integrated Coastal Resources Management Project ( ICRMP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) "in order to support the communities that were once dependent on the Bontod Marine Reserve for their sustenance", Mayor Tuason said.

The reef adventure which will enable tourists to enjoy viewing the thriving helmet shells in their natural habitat for a minimum fee is a joint venture of the City Government of Masbate and the people's organization, Samahang Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway (SAMAPUSI) and is supported by DENR. The three parties have forged an agreement that stipulates the management of the Buntod Marine Sanctuary. The Coastal and Marine Management Division (CMMD) of the DENR, which prepared the business plan of the marine sanctuary underscored the need for the ecotourism-based livelihood enterprise that would actively involve the said people's organization, the City Government, and national agencies including DENR that lends support to this venture.

The proposed ecotourism enterprise will offer travel packages that suit the budget and the needs of both local and international tourists. Part of the tour packages are activities like swimming, snorkeling, boating, and a trek into the mangrove forest.

The Buntod Marine Sanctuary is located at 12.37142 ?N and 123.65034 ?E on the western portion of Brgy. Nursery, Masbate City. It is a shoal with an approximate depth of 10 meters and the gradual slope of up to 30 feet, occupying 52 hectares (ha) of core zone and 100 ha of buffer zone.

A variety of marine life forms inhabit the sanctuary including hard and soft corals, target species (e.g. coral breams, parrotfish, snappers, goat fish, among others) and green sea turtle.