CIVIL society organizations (CSOs) are closing ranks with concerned government agencies to protect and manage in a sustainable manner the Tañon Strait, the country’s largest marine protected area, situated between the islands of Cebu and Negros, in the Visayas group of islands in central Philippines.
The CSOs have committed their support for the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) in the implementation of its 10-year GMP, or general management plan.
“Our dialogue was a huge first step for CSOs to be united and work together in various areas in the critical phase of the implementation of the GMP, to protect Tañon Strait from all forms of threats and make it resilient,” Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana, said.
Oceana, for instance, is helping the government in the implementation of the Fisheries Code, to fight illegal, unreported and unregistered fishing in the Philippines. An international ocean conservation and advocacy organization, Oceana is also looking to collaborate with both public and private sectors in the adoption of measures, such as the monitoring for commercial fishing vessels.
The other CSOs include Rare Philippines, Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), Sea Knights, Tambuyog Development Center, Grassroots Travel, University of the Philippines in the Visayas, and the University of Cebu.
In a parallel session during the 2nd General Assembly of the TSPS-PAMB, in Cebu City, Fr. Tito Soquiño, founder of the Knight-Stewards of the Sea, or “Sea Knights,” suggested that the CSOs consider “ecologically evangelizing” the stakeholders, including the clergy, by initially briefing them on the various initiatives to protect the bounty and beauty of Tañon Strait.
This approach, Soquiño stressed, would facilitate the clergy spreading the word to their respective dioceses and, finally, to their parishioners in Cebu and Negros who are directly dependent on Tañon Strait, particularly the fishermen and their families.
Soquiño co-founded the Sea Knights in 2008, initially composed of Catholic priests, whose aim is to help protect the environment. The volunteer group has since expanded to include professionals, athletes, journalists, policemen and government officials. It conducts regular diving expeditions in Tañon Strait and in other waters in the Visayas.
Rare Philippines, represented by its TSPS program manager Rosa Antes, said it will expand its current five project sites in Tañon Strait to 20 sites over the next four years, under its joint project with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources called “Strengthening the Marine Protected Areas to Conserve Marine Biodiversity Areas.” JAMES GALVEZ