Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Golden sunset at Mambulao Bay.

Can we still rescue the Mambulao Bay and Parang beach?


WHILE browsing the articles on "Mambulaoans WorldWide Buzz" the other night, a fellow editor here at The National newspaper where I work got nailed on a picture the newsletter has carried in its first edition.

He hollered:

 "Hey, Freddie ...! What happened to this beach ... it's so messy ... rubbish all over the place ... the bay water is so brownish ... and yet the skies are blue ... what's going on ...?"

Yehiura Hriehwazi, our Papua New Guinean business editor, has just seen the appalling sight of Parang beach in a picture which was posted on the inaugural edition of MWBuzz.

It was a kind of shock to him.

His country has been blessed with so many white-sanded beaches and crystal-clear water that you could easily see the bottom where fish are feeding on rich algae and other sea plants.

Tourists from Western world would come to PNG for a rare opportunity of enjoying the beauty from this natural resource.

Parang Beach ... water is brownish, beach is filthy
And I had seen some of them myself.

That's why when the inaugural edition of MWBuzz was being prepared I made it a point to carry this picture of the Parang beach, which I shot last April while I was holidaying in Parang, the community of my childhood.

I wanted show to my fellow Mambulaoans what has happened to this beach since we left our community some 30-40 years ago.

And the intended shock value of such a picture was clearly shown by the reaction from my workmate here at The National.

I'm afraid that in another 10 years from now, the Parang beach would be hitting the point of no return, and in another 10 years, it would plunge down to extinction. This is because all possible efforts to rescue it from becoming a total waste would all be in vain.

Blame all this on the indiscriminate gold-panning operations around our community -- from the mountains and hills of still-gold-rich San Mauricio down to the shoreline of Mambulao Bay.

Blame this also on the wholesale dumping of household wastes into the beach, which used to host weekend family outings decades ago.

There are many more gold-panning sites on the outskirts of Jose Panganiban, including Santa Rosa and Calogcog, where the environment is losing a battle against its own destruction.

The livelihood is a destructive process of extracting gold from the earth, in the same way that an open pit mining is, as had shown by the gaping, massive open pit mine in Larap - a legacy of bad mining policy left behind by the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM).

And the picture around Mambulao is bad.

Gold-panning wastes are washed down from the gold panning sites atop the mountains through the many water tributaries, which in turn carry the mud and silt down the Mambulao Bay where it is deposited for good.

Why is the bay water brown?
Through the interaction of tides day in day out, the bottom of the bay, which has become the repository of the red mud, is being stirred up, causing the dirt to flow with the tide until it ends up along the shore around the poblacion of Jose Panganiban.

Red mud is easy to see, and feel, if you want to. All you have to do is go to the shoreline just a few meters from the municipal building and there it is - red beach instead of white - something that we never saw in the old days.

When you walk on the sand, you're not actually stepping on it, but on mud.

Looking at the water buffeted by tiny waves, you’ll see the crest against a background of brown – the color of the bay water.

As it is, most of the damaged is being done on the Parang beach, which stretches more than a kilometer from the public market area to the edge of the road leading to Larap.

It has become a dumping ground of all sort of rubbish - household and otherwise.

And most of the wastes are embedded in mud under the brownish water thus polluting the ecology of the bay. With this, marine life like clams, crabs and shrimps are being choked to death.

When I was a kid, my mom and I and the many housewives from Parang would spend half the day digging clams and "tulya" (bugitis) in the sand when it was low tide, and at same time trapping shrimps.

Although many of the local folks did it every day, being the source of their livelihood, the bay sand continually provided them with bountiful harvest of clams and tulya.

This was no more.

And the bay itself no longer gave sustainable fish catch, after the beautiful and rich mangrove area in the back of the poblacion - the breeding place of marine life -- was demolished to give way to some ugly housing subdivision projects.

Dwindling catch from Mambulao Bay.
I was lucky to find a person whom I thought could enlighten me on this anomaly.

I asked him why the town shoreline has deteriorated to a degree that no amount of rescue later may do the trick.

Talking to Kagawad Carlos Tabuada, who happens to be a member of the teaching staff at the Jose Panganiban National High School (JPNHS), I asked him point black why the municipal government (of Mayor Ricarte Padilla) has tolerated such an indiscriminate gold-extraction activities around town and allowed the gold panning wastes to be dumped straight into the bay waters.

He said: "It (gold-panning) is a major source of livelihood here and many people are dependent on it ... we can't help it ..."

At the base of this stone seawall is not sand, but red mud
I explained to him that the local government doesn't have to stop them altogether but just regulate the operations so that the damage to the environment - the bay in particular -- would be minimized and thus save it from dying.

I asked Kag. Tabuada if it was possible for him to push an ordinance regulating gold-panning.

What I tried to point out was an ordinance banning gold panning activities right along the edge of the shoreline within three kilometers from the poblacion.

If gold-panners could process their gold ores and nuggets three kilometers from the town, then gold tailing and panning wastes would be dumped and secured in the open sea away from the Mambulao Bay itself.

Kag. Tabuada said it's not practical on the part of the operators to bring their materials that far.

But most of all, the municipal government won't lift any finger to restrict the activities of the gold panners, whose number has grown to several hundreds of potential votes.

To do this, he said, would be "political suicide".

I'm just wondering if the townspeople are aware of this.
The picture that was seen by an editor at The National newspaper in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

If not, it's about time therefore that an awareness campaign is initiated to let them know that they are about to lose for good an important natural resource - the Mambulao Bay and the Parang beach.

I don't know if the Mambulao bay could still be rescued, bring it back to its former glory - a pristine water with lots of fish and marine life, and of course with an enjoyable beach where we could stroll without having to wade through a carpet of basura and human waste ...

And at the rate its degradation is going on, the bay could be extinct in 20 years.

That’s why last April a launch a crusade on FaceBook to save our bay.

The account titled Taga Jose Panganiban Ka Ba? ( ) is attempting to generate public awareness on the sorry state of Mambulao Bay.

Sadly, no one seemed to bother.

And this would be our own undoing 20 years from now.



  1. Would it be possible that if the municipal government cannot start a drive to clean the beaches of Parang or considered it"suicidal" to regulate the wrong gold panning practices, the JPHS under the leadership of the principal, set a day or an hour a day for the students to comb the beach and gather the waste that are littered on the beaches? I presume care and importance of the environment is also touched in school. This youth action will probably serve as an eye opener for the mayor, who in a year or two will be needing the votes of these students
    My ten cents worth of comments.

    Tony Tatom

  2. ....or can a batch graduate of JPHS set a day to lead a "Clean Up Day" during the reunion as part of the program. With the number of attendees to possibly participate, there will be thousands of hands to pick up the rubbish and burn it if its allowed. As brod Matt Espana said, a broom cleans more than a single stick.

  3. hi Tony, there was a Parang resident who disagreed with our story on parang beach. she said that the baranggay's students had done some clean-up ... which is something that i had earlier proposed... that the local elem school should be encouraged to do a weekend sortie along the beach, combing the ground for rubbish and all... it could be an awesome task but it's the only way to rescue this natural resource....

  4. i am thinking of some fund raising for the meryenda of the cloass who would undertake a saturday clean-up... pang coke pang tinapay para naman at the end of the day, the kids wouldhave something to munch after a day's work...

  5. Agree to Sir Alfred from beginning to end. In my own opinion, cleaning it may just be a small step and would take a very long time unless it would result to getting out more rubbish as compared to the rubbish being put in by our kababayan. Our municipal government might need to look or study how Palawan has continuously implement rules and guidelines to protect, develop and conserve its natural resources. If it is "suicidal" to regulate or restrict the activities of gold panners, then they should at least pay for it by making them responsible for the development and conservation of Mambulao Bay? But of course the people also need to support the government by being responsible of their own rubbish otherwise this will just be like Ilog Pasig.

    People are more aware of what is happening to our nature recently so I think this will gain support to our kababayan. It just needs to be started somewhere/somehow.

  6. REPUBLIC ACT 7611 :