Environmentalists criticized the organizers of Miss Universe beauty pageant for letting the contestants swim with endangered whale sharks or “butanding” in Cebu on Tuesday.
According to Vince Cinches of Greenpeace Southeast Asia: “We are afraid because with Miss Universe going there, the Philippines is promoting a bad tourism practice. We are telling the world it’s okay to do this, aggravating this kind of behavior.”
Miss Earth Philippines 2006 Catherine Untalan-Vital in an interview with CNN Philippines said that swimming with the whale sharks should not be considered eco-tourism.
“All eyes are on the Philippines as the candidates of Miss Universe tour the country. But why do we need to promote a much-contested activity (i.e. whale shark watching in Oslob) when it has been criticized for so many years now. That is not eco-tourism. We are promoting a wrong practice. While it is an attractive photo, it is a picture that sends the wrong message. I hope somebody can enlighten their team on this,” she said.
Meanwhile, netizens Gabriel Yap and Noel Guevara expressed outrage online.
“We don’t need to show off whale shark watching. The Philippines has literally THOUSANDS of more beautiful sights and places for the contestants to experience. Let’s not give the world the image that we’re a nation that doesn’t give a shit about its wildlife,” he said.
Guevara, who shared Yap’s post, also expressed the same opinion.
“I hope this doesn’t push through. What an irresponsible idea to bring Miss Universe to Oslob. Bring them to Donsol instead, which has stricter interaction protocols and the whales aren’t fed,” he said.