SEA BED CLEANUP. Policemen led by Lt. Col. Mardy Hortillosa, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office-10, prepare to dive during a cleanup activity on Tuesday (March 30, 2021) to remove fishing nets stuck on the sea bed at Puntod Shoal, Barangay San Juan, Gingoog City. The cleanup drive dubbed as “Scubasurero” is ongoing as police officers and civilian divers are working hand in hand to clear the area of fishing nets and trash. (PNA photo by Jigger J. Jerusalem)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A team of divers, led by police officers, on Tuesday began removing fishing nets that have been stuck at the bottom of the sea for years, causing destruction to corals in Puntod Shoal, Barangay San Juan, Gingoog City.

Lt. Col. Ariel Pontillas, Gingoog City police chief, who led the initiative dubbed as "Scubasurero", said the cleanup of the sea bed will continue as they will be holding diving sessions in the coming days.

“This is an ongoing activity. We still have a lot of ground to cover,” Pontillas said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

He said the shoal is about three hectares wide and most parts of the area are now covered in fishing nets as a result of years of illegal practice by fishermen.

In the three diving sessions that were conducted, he said they were able to remove more than 10 kilos of entangled fishing nets.

“We want to clear the area of nets to revive the corals in the shoal,” Pontillas said.

One of the sea creatures that was retrieved during the cleanup was a crab that was covered with corals.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Anduyan, Police Regional Office-10 director, said the crab species has probably mutated due to the length of time that it was trapped in the colony or group of corals.

Anduyan, who is also a diving enthusiast, has emphasized the police’s role in ensuring that illegal fishing practices will be stopped in the region’s coastal areas.

“We are training police officers in scuba diving so they could help in guarding the seas from unlawful fishing methods,” he said.

City councilor Judeline Bernaldez, chair of the Gingoog city tourism committee, said a local ordinance that would protect Puntod Shoal from destruction and to make it a diving spot is nearing approval at the local legislature.

Elvin Restituto, Gingoog City administrative officer, said the cleaning of the shoal is one way of promoting tourism as well as attracting divers.

“Scuba diving is a hobby, but it can also contribute to environmental protection,” Restituto said.

Pontillas said they will also get in touch with other diver groups in the region to help them in the cleanup campaign. (PNA)