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Trail-blazing Tañon Strait

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos April 09,2017 - 10:24 PM

Atty. Gloria Ramos

Atty. Gloria Ramos

The 3rd General Assembly of the Tañon Strait Protected Area Management Board held last Friday in Cebu City was highly significant for many reasons.

For one, the collaboration among stakeholders from both government and civil society is definitely stronger. Despite challenges, considerable milestones and victories were achieved as a result of the partnerships.

Commercial fishing is not allowed in the protected seascape. Joint sea-borne patrol operations are happening. Cases are being filed against offenders.

Vessel monitoring is required for all commercial fishing vessels transiting and docking in Tañon Strait. It is as if everyone is fast, making up for lost time of it being a sleeping giant of a paper park for almost 17 years. It is not lost in the minds of many that the first historic general assembly happened only two years ago, on February 10, 2015, to be exact.

Second, the management body and its component management units and local governments are moving forward towards using science as guide for decision-making. There is a growing collective appreciation that the ecological integrity of the protected area and the livelihoods of many, including the artisanal fisherfolk, are intertwined and thus must be prioritized.

Third, the approved enhanced General Management Plan and with it, the Enforcement Plan, is being utilized as the roadmap towards sustainable management of one of the largest marine protected areas in the country.

Fourth, the exemplars and champions of sound fisheries and habitat management in Tañon Strait now serve as inspiring models for citizens and political authorities alike not just in the protected area but nationwide.

They generously share their knowledge, rich experience and wisdom-filled words and give hope to many that the initiatives taking place in atong (our) Tañon will continue for generations to come.

The Program in the morning session was both enriching and inspiring.

The array of speakers was led by Deputy Ombudsman Paul Elmer M. Clemente, who took time out from his busy schedule, representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), led by Dr. Vincent Hilomin of the Biodiversity Management Bureau, Emma Melana, the chair of the PAMB and Region 7 Director, Regional Director of Negros Island Region, Al Orolfo and Park Superintendent Prospero Am Lendio, local government units represented by Manjuyod, Negros Oriental Mayor Felix Sy who also heads the BATMAN (Bindoy, Ayungon, Tayasan and Manhuyod) Alliance, from the academe, Dr. Anthony Ilano of the University of San Carlos and the 2016 Ocean Heroes Awardee, Mr. Norlan Pagal.
Dr. Hilomin talked about the need for coastal municipalities to protect the fragile fish habitats which include the corals, sea grass, mangroves and mud flats which are essential for fish to spawn, and to bring back fisheries abundance.

He emphasized the need to have more marine protected areas and for local stakeholders to properly manage the same, which necessarily includes regular monitoring of its condition. He also said that the positive developments in Tañon Strait definitely are noteworthy of replication in the various marine protected areas in the country.

Dr. Ilano’s presentation on the survey conducted in and around marine protected areas in Tañon Strait was mind-awakening. While there was rich diversity of the species of the fish, and that it hosts 63% of the entire coral species in Las Isla Filipina, the fish were tiny, ranging on the average from 1-10 centimeters in length. This brings to mind the continuing challenges confronting the protected area.

The beauty and bounty of Tañon Strait are under severe threat by illegal and destructive fishing, apart from climate change, waste mismanagement, habitat destruction and pollution. Enforcement must be vigorous and strategic.

A strong market denial policy for fish caught illegally and unsustainably should be mainstreamed.

Fishers still have to have that ethic of returning to the ocean the juvenile fish that are caught. For us consumers, we need to refuse to buy or eat our famous but already shrunken danggit.

Our Ocean Hero, Norlan Pagal, was deeply appreciative of the wide recognition given him and other awardees but also emphasized that enforcement by bantay dagat (sea warden) should be spared from politics. He echoes what has been observed by some sectors that when a new administration comes in, the bantay dagat team is replaced.

The Park Area superintendent Lendio likewise expressed appreciation for the support of the various government agencies including local government units and from the academe and non-government organizations like Rare, Oceana, Tambuyog, LAMAVE and Zoological Society of London. He also mentioned the stories from our subsistence fisherfolk of increased harvests as a result of regulations now in place.

While there are positive strides being taken, more than ever, we need to continue to work closely in urgently responding to the alarming fisheries situation, or else, we will lose what is left in our oceans.

Education among our citizens especially our youth deserves the highest priority. We hope that the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education and the DENR forge a solid partnership for our curriculum to integrate environmental education as required by our laws.

Oceana, for its part, launched in Cebu City the Primer on the Fisheries Code, as amended by RA 10654, to help elevate the awareness of decision-makers and citizens in saving our rich but deeply threatened oceans.

It is available online, The Cebuano and Ilonggo version will be released soon.

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TAGS: Strait, Tañon, Trail

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