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Outrage over Miss Universe candidates swimming with endangered whale sharks

Categories: Asia, Planet, Recommended Reading, Sea, Wildlife
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The Philippines' bet for the Miss Universe pageant, Maxine Medina, and other candidates swam near the whale sharks. PHOTO: courtesy of Sergei Tokmakov (via CNN Philippines on Twitter)

The Philippines’ bet for the Miss Universe pageant, Maxine Medina, and other candidates swam near the whale sharks. PHOTO: courtesy of Sergei Tokmakov (via CNN Philippines on Twitter)

LOOK: Miss Universe candidates go whale watching in Oslob, Cebu

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Controversy shrouded the visit of the 12 Miss Universe 2016 candidates to Oslob, Cebu on Tuesday.

One of their activities was to watch the endangered whale sharks or butanding. Miss Universe-Philippines Maxine Medina was also photographed swimming with a whale shark.

Environmentalists and past beauty queens expressed their outrage, saying the Miss Universe pageant organizers made an unethical choice of having the contestants swim with whale sharks.

The said tourist attraction has been controversial due to the negative impact on the animals caused by human interaction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the butanding as an endangered species. It reported last July that the “growing human pressure” on whale sharks are putting the species at an increasing risk of extinction.

CNN Philippines correspondent Isabella Montano contributed to this report. Read more.

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Best Community Based Tourism Initiative

Bojo AloguinsanBojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS) was formally registered with the Department of Labor and Employment in October 2009, and with the Bureau of Internal Revenue the following year. The project was initiated by the local government of the municipality of Aloguinsan, a town located 73 kilometers midwest of Cebu City on the island of Cebu in central Philippines. The town is classified as a 4th class municipality with a population of 26,000 and a land area of 7,421 hectares. The village of Bojo is a fishing village of about 1,600 residents living in an area of about 355 hectares. Most of the residents earn from fishing, farming and working as laborers in the city. The 1.3 kilometer Bojo River flows through this village and empties into the Tanon Strait, the biggest marine protected area in the Philippines, and home to 14 species of dolphins.

Community organizing work began in the first quarter of 2009. The association had 52 member families with 75% of them having finished elementary education. More than half of the members are fishermen and housewives and earning US$70 a month. Sixty-five percent have lived in the village since birth.

BAETAS’ mission is to protect Bojo river and the marine resources of Tanon Strait, and attract tourists and earn supplemental income. Its general strategy is community-driven environmental management and the approach is ecotourism revenue as a strong incentive to protect the environment. By the middle of 2009, the Bojo River Eco-Cultural Tour was launched. After fine-tuning the product for a year, it began full swing in 2010.

To date, it has received almost 38,000 satisfied tourists who have joined the tour bringing memorable and meaningful experiences with them after. Tours have generated a total receipt of 16 million pesos with the 2.6 million pesos turned over to the local government. People hail it as a trailblazing initiative in Philippine community-based ecotourism where a local community association gives financial endowment to a municipal government from its tourism activities! The Department of Environment and Natural Resource, Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project and the Asian Development Bank awarded BAETAS the Inang Kalikasan Award for Best in Ecotourism Leadership in 2013.