MACTAN Island, one kilometer southeast of the island province of Cebu, is a famous rest and recreation destination in the Visayas. It is host to some of the country’s world-class, pricey hotels and resorts. At its northern tip is also a popular dive spot, Punta Engaño.
M—’S EYES are closed, but the rest of his bronzed, chiseled features are tight and tense. His heavy, muscular frame, sprawled on a rough-hewn bench of thick pine slabs, seems suspended on his big-boned hands that are desperately grasping a little homemade bong. His thick lips suck furiously on a small bamboo pipe stuck into a disposable plastic water bottle filled to a fourth with water, now swiftly turning green.
TUBBATAHA REEFS NATIONAL MARINE PARK, Palawan — Since 1995, park rangers have relied on aging government equipment and meager funds to protect this remote atoll in the middle of the Sulu Sea from poachers and illegal fishers who have ravaged its resources.
But with the help of foreign grants and increasing tourism revenues, the country’s most favored scuba diving destination has reversed the trend. Park rangers are getting improved facilities and proper training, and Tubbataha’s marine resources have recovered significantly.
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