MANILA - Ocean conservation group Oceana Philippines and other stakeholders on Thursday called on the country's new elected leaders to support the conservation of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS), the country's largest marine protected area.
In a statement released Thursday, Oceana said despite being declared a protected area, threats against Tañon Strait still persist, affecting both marine life and the livelihood of fishermen.
"We hope that our new set of leaders will be supportive of our conservation efforts. The protection of Tañon Strait also lies in the hands of our leaders in the local government units. They must make the protection of our natural resources in Tañon Strait a priority," Prospero Am Lendio, Protected Area Superintendent, said in an interview.
Tañon Strait is an important fishing ground, supporting the livelihood of fishermen in 42 cities and municipalities in the provinces of Cebu, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.
It also serves as home for 14 of the 27 species of whales and dolphins in the Philippines.
According to Lendio, the Protected Area Office (PAO) is patrolling the area to address threats such as unlawful fishing and establishment of polluting industries.
"These commercial fishers steal what the sea has allocated for our municipal fisherfolk. With these enforcement measures, we are sending a clear message that they are not allowed in Tañon Strait," he said.
Meanwhile, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 7 Director Isabelo Montejo emphasized the importance of collaboration among stakeholders in protecting the area.
"Tañon Strait is very diverse, and it’s important that we protect it. With our partners, I can see that Tañon Strait is properly managed and we have finally achieved our dream to have TSPS as one vital area that is really protected, including our resident cetaceans," he said.
TSPS celebrated its 18th anniversary as a protected area on May 27. As part of the celebration, simultaneous mangrove planting and coastal clean-up were done in Badian, San Remegio, and Toledo in Cebu; Calatrava in Negros Oriental; and Guihulngan and Ayungon in Negros Oriental.
“On our part, Oceana aims to restore the abundance of our fisheries by helping enhance the capacity of our enforcers, prosecutors and judges in protecting the environmental rights of our citizens. We are also actively promoting the institutionalization of the use of Vessel Monitoring devices for commercial fishing boats transiting and docking in Tañon Strait, as required by the Fisheries Code, as amended, to strengthen enforcement in the fight against illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters and protected areas,” said Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President for Oceana in the Philippines.