By Louine Hope U. Conserva

ILOILO CITY — Scallop gatherers in the coastal town of Carles in Iloilo Province are losing at least P1 million daily due to the shellfish ban arising from a red tide occurrence.

The coastal waters of Gigantes Island, which is under Carles, were declared positive of red tide toxin on Aug. 30, based on the latest laboratory results of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the local government units.

Mayor Salagunting A. Betita said the town records a daily scallop production of about 10 to 20 tons.

“One kilo of (scallop) meat costs around P110. So we really are losing millions,” he said.

The mayor said they plan to declare Gigantes Island under a state of calamity so that emergency funds can be released to assist affected communities.

The municipal council is waiting for the resolution of support from each barangay to come up with the official declaration.

The island has around 2,500 households in four barangays that have been adversely affected.

“(Barangays) Asluman and Gabi are the scallop capitals of Carles and 85% of their livelihood solely depends on scallop fishing,” he said.

The mayor said that despite the BFAR warning against harvesting and consumption of shellfish, there are still several fishermen who opt to gather scallops for personal consumption.

“Fortunately, there were no reported incidence of food poisoning. But the town has prohibited the selling of scallops,” he said.

The BFAR-Western Visayas office has also extended livelihood assistance to the affected households, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development regional office will be distributing relief goods.

Gigantes Islands is one of Iloilo province’s popular tourist destinations with white beaches, unique rock formations and the famed Tangke Salt Water Lagoon.