Sunday, July 26, 2015

Albay solon readies measure seeking declaration of Ticao-Burias Pass as protected seascape
By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, July 26 (PNA) -- Albay 3rd district Rep. Fernando Gonzalez said here on Sunday he is readying a legislative measure seeking the declaration of the Ticao-Burias Pass as a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Gonzalez explained that protected seascapes are among sites of national significance characterized by the harmonious interaction of man and ocean while providing opportunities for public enjoyment through the recreation and tourism within the normal lifestyle and economic activities offered by these areas.

The congressman, whose representation in Congress covers Albay west coast which is along Burias Pass, said that once officially declared as MPA under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), the Ticao-Burias Pass will be placed under the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), a multi-sectoral body which will be created to be responsible for its administration and management.

The PAMB as provided under the NIPAS Act of 1992 shall be composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director and representatives of local governments and barangays with jurisdictions over areas covered by the MPA, non-government organizations and from other government agencies involved in the protected area management.

The same law provides the legal framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in the Philippines defined as the identified portions of land and/or water set aside by reason of their unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation.

“There is indeed an urgent need for the Burias-Ticao Pass to be declared an MPA or a protected seascape to save and preserve its great marine diversity threatened by unabated illegal fishing activities and other abuses,” Gonzalez said.

These waters are home to whale sharks, manta rays, dugong and various species of sea turtles, exotic coral reefs and lately discovered to be a habitat of the globally rare megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios), he said.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Ocean Campaigner Vince Cinches, who expressed support to the proposed Gonzalez’s measure, said both water bodies are being overfished and devoid of more sustainable coastal resource management initiatives.

Greenpeace an independent global campaigning organization that, among other environmental activism, challenges wasteful and destructive fishing activities and creating a global network of marine reserves.

The idea carrying the Burias-Ticao Pass Protected Seascape (BTPPS) fathered by Gonzalez was first brought out during last month’s observance here of the World Oceans Day held along the Burias Pass shoreline in Barangay Cabarian that put together various marine ecology protection and conservation stakeholders in Bicol.

The event also marked the formation of a broad coalition among local stakeholders towards the conservation of the exotic ecological system of the two inland waters that separate Masbate province from the mainland of Bicol.

The coalition led by the city government here is composed, among others, of the regional offices for Bicol of the DENR, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

Others in its fold are the local command of the Philippine Army (PA); the municipal government of Pioduran, Albay; Greenpeace Philippines; Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD); barangay officials; and fisher folk.

The two other towns covering barangays along the Albay west coast--Libon and Oas -- have also signified intentions to be part of the coalition committed not only to put an end to illegal fishing and another abusive use of our marine resources but also to further revitalize the local coastal environment.

The primary concern of the coalition is the huge fishing ground covering Albay west coast’s municipal waters and their rich coastal resources threatened by human pressures, including over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification.

Good for this city because its water within Burias Pass -- which is approximately 126 square-kilometers in expanse and coastline of about 8.4 kilometers in expanse covering barangays Cabarian, Catburawan and Maonon -- is site of a marine ecology enhancement program reinforced with a “we-mean-business” anti-illegal fishing campaign being maintained by the local government.

But other Ticao-Burias areas, including those covered by municipalities of Masbate and Sorsogon, particularly need the protection that members of the coalition such as the DENR, BFAR, PNP, PA, LCCAD and Greenpeace want to extend.

Gonzalez said he is optimistic that the proposed legislative measure for the BTPPS will be given a warm welcome and wide support by Congress, given that Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate’s committee on environment and natural resources, and DENR Sec. Ramon Paje have already expressed their approval of it.

This initial approval was conveyed by Legarda and Paje following its presentation to the conference of the PAMB in Pasig City early this month.

LCCAD executive director Manuel Rangasa said the BTPPS will be a milestone policy for the first MPA in Bicol and fourth in the country which Gonzalez vows to pursue in the Lower House with the help of Legarda in Senate. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM