Civil society organizations (CSOs) are closing ranks with concerned government agencies to protect and manage in a sustainable manner Tañon Strait, the county’s largest marine protected area, between Cebu and Negros in the Visayas.
The civil society organizations have committed to provide their respective support to the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) to implement its 10-year general management plan (GMP).
“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 General Management Plan to protect Tañon Strait from all forms of threats and make it resilient,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana.
Oceana is helping the government in the implementation of the Fisheries Code as amended, to fight illegal, unreported and unregistered fishing in the country. It is looking at collaboration with both public and private sectors in the adoption of measures such as vessel monitoring for commercial fishing vessels.
The other CSOs included Rare Philippines, Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), Sea Knights, Tambuyog Development Center, Grassroots Travel, University of the Philippines in the Visayas, and 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 briefing them on the various initiatives to protect the bounty and beauty of Tañon Strait.
Soquiño said this approach would facilitate in spreading the word to their respective dioceses, and to their parishioners in Cebu and Negros who are directly dependent on Tañon Strait, particularly small fishers and their families, other rural folks, commercial fishers, including barangay and municipal officials.
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 then 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 in the next four years, under its joint project with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) —“Strengthening the marine protected areas to conserve marine biodiversity areas.”