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Thank you, PCSSD!

The Filipino Cave Divers (FCD) expresses its appreciation and acknowledgement for thepcssd efforts of the Philippine Commission on Sports SCUBA Diving (PCSSD) for its initiatives and its support for the advancement of divers’ safety and in the exploration and sustainability of important ecosystems with high tourism potentials.

The FCD is proud to have participated and partnered with PCSSD during the following recent endeavors in Cebu:

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April 26-27, 2016| Oxygen In-Water Recompression (OIWR) Workshop & Simulation- Cebu Leg to heighten divers’ safety, through PCSSD’s partnership with the Philippine Technical Divers [Philtech]. It was conducted by Philtech’s founder and FCD’s Public Relations Officer, Alex Santos (a luminary in the Philippine diving scene who introduced Nitrox in the country). FCD members who attended the training were Jaime Lapac, Bernil Gastardo, Nelson Que, Lyndon Cubillan and Dean Apistar.

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April 28-May 1, 2016| The Preliminary Bio-Physical and Resource Assessment of the Pawod Underwater Cave System (PUCS) of Brgy. Agus, Mactan- Cebu. The assessment included water sampling, fauna inventory, and area mapping. The analysis & identification of the collected samples under the supervision of FCD scientist Ethel Wagas is currently ongoing. Updating of the area map is led by FCD geologist Alex Santos. A full scientific report will be submitted to PCSSD by July 2016.

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May 2, 2016| The preliminary exploration of a virgin cave system in Western Cebu with the FCD team composed of Bernil Gastardo, Alex Santos, Nelson Que and Lyndon Cubillan. Data gathered from the survey is still under process.

Thank you very much PCSSD team!

4th Joint PAME and RCC Meeting

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Seven underwater (anchialine) caves in Mindanao were formally submitted for classification marking the first time in the country’s history that underwater caves will officially be included in the national list. This happened during the joint meeting of the Regional Cave Committee and PAME Group of Caraga Region, Philippines, held last Dec. 10, 2015 at Balanghai Hotel, Butuan City.

The Filipino Cave Divers, represented by Jake Miranda, presented the results of recent underwater cave explorations. Videos of cave conservation efforts were also shown to the audience.

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Article by:

Jake Miranda

Jake Miranda

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Freshwater cave system in Cebu yields an undescribed species of fish

The recent exploration (Dec.7-8, 2015) to Casili Underwater Cave System in Brgy. Arpili- Balamban, gave the team the opportunity to video document a previously unobserved denizen of the deeper portion of the site.  Captured on video is a  yet-to-be described fish that was spotted at a depth of 32 meters and around 600 meters away from the cave entrance. Length of the specimen is approximately 5 inches long. The team was unable to secure a live sample for study.

Alex Santos, Jaime Lapac and Bernil Gastardo composed the  team. For the successful 2-days of exploration, much appreciation and gratitude goes to the hearty support and kind cooperation of the local council and barangay tanods led by Barangay Captain, Hon. Rhodessa Paulin.

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FCD attends the 19th National Cave Committee meeting

8-19th NCC Meeting (6)The FCD, as resource speaker, attended the 19th National Cave Committee meeting on Nov. 24, 2015 at Brentwood Suites, Quezon City, Philippines. Representing FCD was Jake Miranda.

FCD presented the results of the rapid assessment of four underwater caves (anchialine) in Cebu and Mindanao.

FCD also showed the Hinatuan and Libwakan videos (personally seen by the BMB Director during an earlier screening) to the keen interest of the committee.

Other topics discussed were the publication of the Philippine’s first semi-technical cave book, a scientific cave conference in 2017, the ongoing geo-tagging of caves and the upcoming National Cave Congress on April 11, 2015 in Sagada province, and an upcoming symposium for Biodiversity.

The key successes were:

1. Continuous and growing appreciation of underwater caves by national government;

2. The publication of FCD articles in the new semi-technical cave book and a partner coffee table book;

3. An upcoming MOA between the Biodiversity Management Bureau and the FCD;

4. Successful presentation of the GIZ-PAME-FCD-USC Rapid Results Assessment, particularly the Libwakan Spring video which raised concern for springs around the country;

5. Anent Item 4, BMB to stipulate the word “biodiversity preservation” in national budget such that development works like tourism facilities, roads and irrigation will only be built when they have measures to protect biodiversity.

Thanks to the GIZ-PAME and USC-FCD team for the inputs, videos, and Anna Varona and Ethel Wagas for their work.

Article by:

Jake Miranda

Jake Miranda

Rapid Source Assessment: Bababu Lake of Dinagat Islands

Bababu LakeOn April 17-20, 2015, the FCD-USC-DENR-GIZ will conduct the last leg of the Rapid Assessment of Terrestrial and Aquatic Biodiversity Survey on Lake Bababu, Dinagat Islands.

Bababu Lake, 10.074197°N, 125.509106°E, is in Barangay Basilisa, Dinagat Island- Province of Dinagat Islands. It is accessible from Surigao City via a 1.5 hour boat ride. The lake is approximately 200 meters in diameter.

The lake cave (Cave Entrance) is at 10.075459°N, 125.508469°E, which is approximately 700 meters from the sea outlet. The sea outlet is at Kabun Cove, Agongon (Cave Exit) 10.079940°N, 125.505360°E.

Cross-section of the Bababu TunnelThe area is also an upcoming tourism destination. The underwater cave tunnel system discovered in 2012 has been initially measured to be approximately 700 meters long, making it the longest natural underwater cave tunnel in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.

Bababu LakesideBababu features closely contiguous ecosystems within the lake, inside the underwater cave and on the terrestrial area that are unique and a home to a wealth of unexplored biodiversity.

After being identified as a eco-tourism site by the Local Government Unit, there has been a surge of the number of visitors going to the area. Concerned stakeholders now fear that the opening of the site will result in the degradation of the critically fragile ecosystem and will result to the loss of the still undocumented biodiversity treasure.

Habitats: Heavily forested karst area with lake, sea basins, coves & surrounding islets.

Key Diversity Areas: Freshwater lake, forest area, corals in the basins

Trigger Species: Freshwater fish, shrimps, sponges, urchins & unknown species

Hinatuan Enchanted River Underwater Cave System (HERUCS) Rapid Source Assessment

Hinatuan Enchanted River

Hinatuan Enchanted River Underwater Cave System (HERUCS)

The Hinatuan Enchanted River,  8.458886°N, 126.354667°E is in Barangay Talisay, Hinatuan Municipality, Surigao del Sur, Caraga Region (Region XIII). It is accessible from both Butuan City (2.5 hour vehicle ride) and Surigao City (4 hour vehicle ride).

This particular river starts from the underwater cave entrance at 30 meters depth, forms into a spring pool, and flows out to sea. Its stream is approximately 1,000 meters long starting from the spring pool and terminating at its outlet to sea.

The area is now Mindanao’s main tourism destination. On weekends, crowd of more than 1,000 persons is not unusual, most if not all partake in the swimming activities.

HERUCS is a contiguous ecosystem joining the underwater cave and the terrestrial area that are unique and a home to a wealth of unexplored biodiversity. Concerned stakeholders now fear that the gaining popularity of the site will result in the degradation of the critically fragile ecosystem and will result to the loss of the still undocumented biodiversity treasure.

The Local Government Unit of Hinatuan was able to acquire ownership of the lands around HERUCS totaling to 27 hectares.   A ordinance declaring the HERUCS as eco-tourism area had also been adopted. Moreso, the DENR and DOT had recently facilitated the determination of the area’s carrying capacity. This project will greatly augment the present efforts of the LGU of Hinatuan to sustainably utilize and develop HERUCS. The LGU of Hinatuan had expressed desire to declare HERUCS as conservation area expanding the coverage to 150 hectares and having more conservation supportive legal provisions.

Hinatuan_fishesOn March 20-24, 2015 the FCD with the University of San Carlos- Biology Department, DENR-BMB and GIZ will conduct the first ever Rapid Source Assessment of the Enchanted River.

There will be daily sampling of the water from the outer, middle and inner parts of the cave system. Biological assessments and sampling of specimens both flora and fauna will also be made by the accompanying university biologists.

Mapping will be conducted by the cave diving team to enhance previous data gathered during earlier surveys by FCD founders, Dr. Alfonso Amores, Jake Miranda and Bernil Gastardo.

Joining the survey team is FCD Alex Santos. He is the 1st cave diver to explore the cave system back in 1999.

Visit http://www.facebook.com/FilipinoCaveDivers for real-time updates of the upcoming survey.

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2014: A Year of Discoveries & Trial by Fire for the FCD

The Filipino Cave Divers started the year 2014 with a series of epic discoveries. Mid-year, it suffered a devastating loss of a beloved co-founder. Forging ahead through such bitter challenge, the organization maintained its core values and expanded its membership, networks and partners. The future of the country’s underwater cave explorations, protection and management is secure in the vision that FCD has set forth. The FCD is discovering more of its potential and 2015 is going to be another year of awesome discoveries indeed!

January 12, 2014– The Siargao Island was initially explored by Doc Amores, Lyndon Cubillan and Larry Williams. Located in Baragngay Tuburan were 3 promising springs that were reported (by locals) to connect Tuburan II to Tuburan I some 2 kilometers away. https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/01/16/search-for-new-underwater-caves-siargao-island/

January 20, 2014– The Pawod Cave was surveyed by Doc Amores, Lyndon Cubillan, Andy Berame and Jaime Lapac. This survey was to determine if the area suffered any damage during the Oct. 15, 2013 earthquake which, at its epicenter in Bohol, registered 8-9 in intensity. No damage was observed in any of the areas especially in the main chamber, and main tunnel.
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/01/21/pawod-and-the-big-earthquake-of-2013/

January 26, 2014– The Pawod Cave was relined by Doc Amores, Andy Berame and Jaime Lapac. Several cave divers using the cave had been leaving temporary lines in the area that were confusing. These temporary lines were removed by the team and yellow permanent lines were installed.
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/01/26/relining-of-docs-chamber-of-pawod-underwater-cave/

February 23, 2014– Doc Amores and Jake Miranda went to Tagbilaran, Bohol to attend the 18th National Cave Committee meeting chaired by the Biodiversity Management Bureau. Together they presented the credentials and exploration reports of the FCD to the committee. After viewing the presentation, NCC Chair and BMB Director Mundita Sison-Lim said, “With cave diving expertise now locally available, we have a partner in FCD to finally explore the numerous freshwater and sea caves in the different parts of the country. Previously we had to rely on foreign expertise. This partnership boosts our local capability to conduct studies on cave geology and biodiversity inside the underwater caves.”
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/02/27/fcd-attends-the-18th-national-cave-committee-meet/

February 27, 2014– Jake Miranda added one more letter to the cave divers TGADL acronym. FCD now utilizes the mnemonic “Thank God All Divers Live Long”. L (ong) stands for Local. As his article explains, “Local knowledge of the cave includes cave geologic characteristics and composition, water flow, depths, chambers, established lines, and important data from previous expeditions. The new letter in the acronym is added to reflect the need for the cave diver to properly study the cave and prepare for his dive inside its environment. Each cave is different and presents unique challenges to the cave diver.” https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/02/27/thank-god-all-divers-live-long/

April 2 – 3, 2014– Doc Amores, Lydon Cubillan, Jaime Lapac, Ferdinand Edralin, Jake Mirand and Larry
Williams returned to Siargao Island to explore the several sites in Siargao Island. The Del Carmen Cenote No. 1 which was considered by the team as an epic find. The water movement in the area is affected by the tidal flow. With proper tide timing, this can either be a no-current dive or a spring dive with significant flow for pull-and-glide dive propulsion exercises.
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/04/09/the-del-carmen-cenote-1-a-classic-underground-riversinkhole/

https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/04/18/kantoloi-twin-cenotes-of-pilar-siargao-island/

April 5, 2014– The Siargao Exploration team proceeded to explore the other sites in Del Carmen, Siargao Island. The crown jewel of the expedition was the discovery of the “Inner Sanctum”. Bamboo ladders and skills in rappelling were required to access the water’s edge. https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/04/09/the-inner-sanctum-of-del-carmen/

May 17, 2014– Doc Amores signed-off 3 new FCD members that he started training a few months back.
Considered certified as FCD Cave Divers are Dean Apistar, Ferdinand Edralin and Marc Berame.
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/05/17/new-fcd-members/

June 17, 2014– A very bleak point in the history of FCD was when Doc Amores passed away while exploring the Hinatuan Enchanted River. An undiagnosed heart condition was the cause of his death. He was recovered by Jake Miranda inside the main chamber, 40 meters deep with his right hand intentionally wrapped in the cave line. It was assumed that he did it so that he wouldn’t drift deeper into the cave. Doc’s last decision made the recovery safer for the team.
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/07/08/doc-amores-an-explorer/

June 25, 2014– In the shadow of Doc Amores’ passing and during his wake, the FCD held its first election of officers. Elected as President and Vice- President is Bernil H. Gastardo and Andy Berame respectively. The Board of Directors and the new officers vowed to continue Doc’s advocacy to protect and preserve the country’s underwater caves and marine resources.
https://filipinocavedivers.com/about/the-fcd-core-group/

July 2, 2014– 7 Concept Note proposals for the exploration and consequent protection of 2 sites in
Cebu and 5 sites in CARAGA region were sent to the main office of the DENR-GIZ Protected Area Management Enhancement (PAME) Project. These proposals were initially worked on by Doc Amores.

August 11, 2014– The Final Proposals for the survey and protection of cave sites in Cebu and CARAGA region were hand-carried to the PAME HQ in Quezon City by Joseph Nacario to meet the deadline. This was after a rigorous 4 days & 3 nights writing binge by the FCD proposal writing team composed of Jake Miranda, Joseph Nacario and Dean Apistar.

September 8, 2014– Executive Order 2014-24 which is “An Order Organizing Task Force Pawod” was enforced by the Lapu-Lapu City Hall. The committee is composed of 12 members– the City’s elected officials, executives and 1 private organization (FCD). The initial meetings opened a lot of possibilities for the development and protection of the Pawod Underwater Cave System. A management workshop will be conducted on January 2015.
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/07/26/docboys-cave-aka-the-pawod-underwater-cave-system/

September 26, 2014– The FCD held its 1st Convention in Mactan. Members joined in the survey of Pawod and an Advanced Buoyancy, Trim and Propulsion Workshop was conducted by UTD Instructor, Juan Naval. https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/10/17/the-1st-fcd-convention/

October 14, 2014– Alex Santos conducted an IANTD Cave Diver training in the exotic and beautiful Paglugaban Cave in El Nido, Palawan.
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/11/09/the-paglugaban-cave-of-el-nido-palawan/

November 28, 2014– The FCD signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of San Carlos- Biology Department for the exploration and study of the underwater caves in the country. https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/11/29/fcd-and-usc-a-partnership-for-the-underwater-caves-of-the-philippines/

Dec. 1, 2014– A contract was awarded to FCD by GIZ to survey 4 underwater cave systems until May 2015. The sites to be surveyed starting January 2015 are Casili (January), Silop (February), Hinatuan (March), and Bababu (April).
https://filipinocavedivers.com/2014/12/07/a-journey-of-discovery/

silop cave complex

The Silop Cave Complex

Silop Cave Complex (SCC) is in Barangay Silop, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, Caraga, Philippines, which silop2is accessible via daily flights from Manila and Cebu.  SCC is located at 9.740553°N, 125.515011°E. It is just 15 minutes from the Surigao City Airport.  It now has sixteen-cave entrances system (out of a possible 23) as of June 2014.

Of particular interest is Cave 4a which is part of the established 16 other entrances. It is the only water cave in the system where freshwater runs through the cave at an average depth of 5 feet in the dry season. Certain lengths are as deep as 8 feet. Source pool is 20 feet deep or deeper. The cave is estimated to be 1,000 meters long to reach the source pool.

As of today, there is no baseline information for which the LGU can use as basis to start protecting the area. Today cave 4A’s waters remain an enigma as to its contents, composition and importance to the surrounding forest. Since 2011, the FCD members have spent personal finances to investigate the nature of the SUCS to find out about the value of protecting the area against urbanization. silop_image

Fish, shrimp and bats are commonly found. However, it is under threat from siltation and runoff caused by gold-panning activities in nearby upland areas. In the surrounding areas, unclassified bats and primates are commonly seen.

The Silop Underwater Cave System (SUCS) is a contiguous ecosystem joining the underwater cave and the terrestrial area that are unique and a home to a wealth of unexplored biodiversity. Concerned stakeholders now fear that the gaining popularity of the site will result in the degradation of the critically fragile ecosystem and will result to the loss of the still undocumented biodiversity treasure.

The main threats that can be reduced are the siltation and brown water effect that unfortunately are diffusing to nearby Barangay Silop. The other major threat that this project wants to address is the lack of site-specific policy and mechanisms to safeguard this fragile ecosystem. There is also lack of framework in which development and utilization of the area can follow on

The Local Government Unit is amenable to the conservation of the area due to its enormous potential for eco-tourism and understands that intervention must be brought-in in order to preserve the area’s main attraction-its pristine and water feature. It can be said that currently, there are no significant interventions for conservation being done in the area.

The key stakeholders of the SCC and terrestrial ecosystem include the people and communities of Surigao City, the barangay of Silop and of the Province of Surigao del Norte, along with the tourists and the tourism service sector.

This is one of the areas that the FCD will be surveying early next year with the funds received from the BMB- GIZ PAME project.

FCD-GIZ-BMB

A Journey of Discovery

what lies bemeath..The Filipino Cave Divers (FCD) has been contracted to take the lead in an exciting and pioneering project called the “Assessment of Terrestrial and Aquatic Biological Diversity in Selected Aquatic Cave Systems”!

This ground- breaking endeavor which will be undertaken with FCD’s scientific partner, the University of San Carlos- Biology Department,  is under the close supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which has partnered with the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). The implementation of the cave assessments falls under the Protected Area Management Enhancement (PAME) Project.

PAME projects are jointly implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

A rapid source assessment of 4 underwater cave systems will be made in Cebu (1) and CARAGA (3):

  1. Casili Underwater Caves System – Balamban, Cebu
  2. Silop Cave Complex- Surigao City, Surigao del Norte
  3. Enchanted River Underwater Cave System- Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur
  4. Bababu Lake Underwater Cave System- Basilisa, Dinagat Islands

The main tasks and activities that are expected from the FCD and from the University of San Carlos- Biology Department are as follows:

  1. Generate biological profile of the underwater caves including invertebrates;
  2. Produce vegetation profile outside the cave;
  3. Mapping of the underwater cave (inside and outside);
  4. Generate hydrological profile to include water quality (temperature, pH, nutrients, coliforms, salinity and biological oxygen demand), water current directions and velocity and water level rise;
  5. Develop management options per cave as basis in management planning;
  6. Develop assessment and monitoring protocols for the underwater caves.

The project contract was signed last December 4, 2014 and project activities will be undertaken until May 31, 2015.

Please stay tuned for updates as the Filipino Cave Divers and the USC- Biology Department embark on a journey of discovery that will show to the country and to the rest of the world the beauty, complexity and the biodiversity that reside in the underwater world of freshwater and anchialine caves in the Philippines!

FCD & USC

FCD and USC: A Partnership for the Underwater Caves of the Philippines

FCD and USC

Last November 28, 2014, the Filipino Cave Divers (FCD) and the University of San Carlos (USC) – Biology Department forged the country’s first-ever partnership between a team of underwater cave explorers and a team of university scientists.

The relationship is officially sealed with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will strongly encourage collaborative research projects in underwater caves; the exchange of scientific materials, information, and publications; lectures and symposia; and the promotion of other academic cooperation between both organizations.

Both the FCD and USC share a common goal of furthering the protection of the Philippines’ natural resources. With FCD’s technical expertise on cave diving, the partnership will enhance USC’s science-based approach to addressing local biological resources, environmental issues and problems.

USC’s technical expertise on taxonomy and systematics, as well as biodiversity conservation will complement FCD’s primary focus which is the exploration, survey and subsequent protection of underwater cave systems in the Philippines.

With this merging of brilliant scientific minds, passionate cave divers and environmentally concerned citizens, the country can expect a boost in substantial research related to the biological, hydrological and geological studies of the underwater cave systems in the Philippines!

The signing of the MOU, which was held at the USC- Talamban Campus was attended by Ms. Annie Diola- USC Faculty, Dr. Danilo Dy- USC Faculty, Mr. Dave Valles- USC Museum Curator, Mr. Dean Apistar- FCD Biologist, Mr. Bernil Gastardo- FCD President, Mr. Ariel Rica-  Region VII Division Chief of the Regional Protected Areas and Wildlife Division, Ms. Bernadette Bragat- PAWD technical staff, 5 other scientists of the USC Biology Department and Mr. Terence Dacles of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

Acknowledgment and appreciation goes to MOU co-signatory, Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD- USC President and to Dr. Danilo Largo- USC Bio Dept. Dean and Dr. Julie Otadoy- USC Bio Dept. Chair for their participation in the development of the MOU.

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