Cadiz City Mayor Salvador “Bading” Escalante has ordered the temporary closure of the Kabilang- bilangan Reef in Barangay Sicaba after strong current claimed the lives of four persons including two minors on Sunday.
Escalante said today that the reef recently has become a tourist spot in the city.
Actually, we were planning to put up facilities in the reef to accommodate visitors like the popular sand bar site off the coast of Manjuyod town, Negros Oriental, the mayor said.
He said that the plans to develop the area would have been implemented this year but the budget was re-aligned so its development was put on hold until next year.
The city government, Escalante said, put up an observation tower/ lighthouse on the reef to shelter fishermen in times when the current and winds are strong.
He also pointed out that sudden strong currents are normal occurrences as Cadiz is a coastal locality facing the Visayan Sea.
Escalante added that the city government will shoulder the cost of embalming of the fatalities and provide one sack of rice and grocery packs to the bereaved families.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Northern Negros Occidental said that they will hold the boat operator liable over the drowning incident that took place Sunday.
Commander Joe Luviz Mercurio, PCG-Northern Negros Occidental station chief they are already investigating the incident.
Mercurio said Kabilang-bilangan Reef is not a restricted area, although boats in the area are not authorized to ferry tourists to the site.
Based on their investigation, Mercurio said the victims were swept away by a in the area.
The first to be swept away was 13-year-old Mark Jhon Aguire.
Subsequently Aguire’s family tried to rescue Mark Jhon, but in the process, they too were swept away by the current.
Mark Jhon later got drowned, alongside three others identified as 13-year-old Michael Jhon Merabe; 33-year-old Marlyn Aguire; and 31-year-old Rememar Ocon.
Mercurio also said there was no capsizing incident, despite earlier reports they received during the search and rescue operations.
He said they are now in the process of finding out the name of the boat operator.
The PCG may summon the boat operator once they are identified and charges could be filed against them for operating as colorums.
Kabilang-bilangan Reef is a sandbar with two concrete structures.
The reef can only be accessed via a 15-minute boat ride from mainland Negros island, and 10 minutes away from Lakawon island.* (EYA/DGB)