A group of jet ski enthusiasts from Iloilo, identified in the news as members of the Iloilo Watercraft Association (IWA), came to Taytay and El Nido last week with their high-powered, noisy recreational vehicles in tow.

Apparently oblivious to the regulation banning jet skis in these parts, their arrival immediately caught the attention of local residents. And by the time they had their fill of thrill gallivanting around the fragile islets in their fancy, expensive toys, they had pissed off just about everyone in town, especially in El Nido, where they spent most of their time before shipping back to Iloilo.

A civil society group, the Save El Nido, recently initiated an online signature campaign demanding the government to take action on the incident. The tone of the petition is akin to that of seething rage. “They were loud and proud and confident that what they did was allowed. We have seen them, and we know they are not allowed to do what they did,” the petition stated. As of writing, over 500 have signed their petition hosted at Change.Org.

The group’s leader, Vincent Tajanlangit, has stated in a reply message to Palawan News that they will respond to the “bashing” they have been receiving on social media but has yet to do so at this time. He also indicated he is a member of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary. As such, he may, and should, be compelled by authorities to explain his group’s actions.

Jet skis have no place in fragile marine environments. Their powerful motors can create serious disturbance in the corals and seabeds, and the regulations here are clear.

This matter remains unresolved, mainly because neither Tajanlangit’s group, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), nor the management boards of the two protected areas have come out to shed light on the matter. From Palawan News’ sources, we learned that the office of Rep. Edgar Salvame has already denied any role in the group’s activities after they were reportedly name-dropped by one of its members during the excursion.

The burden falls heaviest on the Iloilo Watercraft Association and its leaders who organized the trip. That it has taken them until this time to come out and explain their actions demonstrates an utter lack of respect. If they concede to the allegations that they have illegally intruded into protected waters, attributing it perhaps to poor planning or lack of coordination with local authorities, an apology should be forthright. If they insist they did no wrong, they should simply assert so and be prepared to justify it.

Finally, there is a lesson to be gleaned here on the part of both Taytay and El Nido authorities or their respective management boards, which is one about the enforcement of rules. For at least 12 jet skis to be able to roam around marine protected areas unchallenged by authorities for at least 10 days doesn’t speak well of their enforcement capabilities.

The Philippine Coast Guard should even chime in on this, as members of the group in question apparently have affiliations with them as PCG Auxiliary. They need to be mindful that public opinion, especially on the unhinged social media platforms, can and will simply interpret inaction as a case of toleration and acquiescence.

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