By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY – The Tañon Strait Protected Seascapes (TSPS) is the biggest protected seascapes in the country today with a total coverage area of 518,221 hectares of coastal and marine habitats of live corals reefs, seagrasses, mangroves and marine mammals, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas said today.
DENR-7 protected area superintendent Am Prospero Lendio, during the AGIO Forum Tuesday, told Manila Bulletin that TSPS is also home to 14 of the 28 protected species of dolphins in the Philippines.
Lendio said TSPS covers 42 cities and towns in the provinces of Cebu, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.
“It is the biggest seascape in the Philippines with more than 18,000 hectares of live coral reefs and diverse species of seagrass and over 5,000 hectares of mangroves,” Lendio said.
Lendio added Tanon Strait was declared as a protected seascape in 1998 under the NIPAS law and is now being managed by multi-sectoral protected area management councils that are being established in every local government unit within the TSPS coverage area.
The DENR chairs the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) that oversees the overall management and major programs of the TSPS in collaboration and coordination with the various protected area management councils and local government units in the area.
The DENR-7 has already apprehended 12 commercial fishing boats illegally fishing within the TSPS zone and cases had already been filed in courts, Lendio said, citing the department’s reports from 2015 to 2018.
“There had been significant decrease in illegal fishing within the TSPS area although there are still packets of illegal fishing (mostly dynamite fishing) at the Medellin, Cebu side of TSPS,” Lendio added.
According to Lendio, the TSPS councils and the DENR here continuously patrol the area with the help of other NGOs working on the protection and conservation of the TSPS. He said they have trained 169 Bantay Dagat volunteers in Central Visayas and have been deputized as Protected Area Rangers.
Lendio added the TSPS must be protected and conserved because it is directly affecting more than 20,000 marginalized fisherfolks and their families in the area in terms of livelihood, income and poverty alleviation.
On May 25, TSPS will celebrate its 20th year of declaration as a protected area. Lendio said it will be celebrated with a general gathering of fisherfolks, LGUs, NGOs and other stakeholders of TSPS conservation program that will be held at the Grand Convention Center in Cebu City.
According to Lendio as of May 15, 70-80 percent of those occupying the TSPS land area are violating the 20-meter easement zone. This is based on DENR’s Inventory and Coastline Profiling of resource users in the area that include beach resorts, private ports and other industries.