Biodiversity in Tañon Strait to be protected
Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - July 29, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has partnered with an international conservation group to draw up a plan for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) in Central Visayas.

The TSPS, which lies between the islands of Negros and Cebu, is among the country’s major fishing grounds where about 26,000 fishermen operate. It is also an important migration corridor for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, making it a preferred destination for whale-watchers, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts.

The DENR, through the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), recently signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with RARE, Inc. to formulate a master plan that would ensure local fishermen employ sustainable fishing practices within the 310,800-hectare marine protected area, which is a primary source of livelihood for coastal villages in Cebu and Negros islands.

RARE is an international public policy research and advocacy group working in over 50 countries through its “Pride Campaign” that facilitates the establishment of collaborative approaches and cross-cutting solutions to environmental challenges in coordination with communities, industry and government.

The agreement was signed by PAWB Director Mundita Lim and RARE president and CEO Brett Scott Jenks.

“The pact formalizes the joint initiative of the DENR and RARE to identify common areas of interests and cooperation acceptable to all stakeholders, focusing on issues surrounding access to and control over resources within the TSPS,” said Lim.

She said the signing comes at an opportune time as the output of the undertaking will form part of a single project document called “Strengthening the Marine Protected Area to Conserve Marine Key Biodiversity Areas” to be submitted to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) within the year.

The UNDP, in turn, will endorse the document to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) for funding for the implementation of conservation activities in five of the country’s important marine spots, namely: TSPS, Verde Island Passage, the Davao Gulf, Surigao Bay and Palawan.

Lim added the DENR-RARE partnership will broaden the consensus among multi-sectoral coalition groups working to justify marine conservation activities in the area while providing sustainable livelihood projects in order to decrease pressure on Tañon Strait “whose reach, especially in terms of its life support services, do not recognize political boundaries.”

“Given its wide coverage, the establishment of the Tañon Strait as a marine protected area in 1998 has opened up alliances, both at the national and local levels, that have placed stakeholders on the opposite sides of issues concerning conservation, utilization and development of the area’s resources,” Lim explained.

She said the plan intends to support the social and economic needs of the communities involved, and improve TSPS’s marine biodiversity.

Located between the islands of Negros and Cebu, the strait connects the Visayan Sea to the Bohol Sea and has a total coastline of 452.7 kilometers. It is bounded by 36 coastal municipalities and the cities of Cebu, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.            

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