A famous dive spot and tourist destination, the municipality of Moalboal in Cebu is known for its rich coral reef and diverse marine species such as the sea turtles. Moalboal is part of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS), the largest marine protected area in the Philippines.
“We should be more proactive in protecting our marine resources. This unfortunate incident emphasizes the urgent need for the implementation of the General Management Plan (GMP) in Tañon Strait, which would require strict no-go zones and clear designated routes for vessels in the area. The local government units and the Protected Area Management Body should likewise closely scrutinize the operation of polluting industries, and prohibit hazardous emissions and discharges,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President for Oceana Philippines.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said that the oil spill happened Friday morning, after local fishermen reported that they saw oil sticking on seagrass in Pescador Island, Moalboal.
The PCG said that they are looking at the possibility that one of the vessels passing between Negros and Cebu province may have caused the spill.
Ramos noted that monitoring systems for all types of vessels passing through the protected area should be put in place.
“It is time to start identifying navigational lanes in relation to critical areas in the Strait that are coral-rich and pathways for marine mammals and fisheries,” she added.
Tañon Strait is a critical habitat and important migratory path for 14 of the 27 species of whales and dolphins in the Philippines. It is a rich fishing ground for coastal dwellers in 42 cities and municipalities in Cebu and Negros Islands.
Threats such as overfishing, unregulated coastal development, and pollution persist despite the area’s protected status, damaging fish habitats and adversely affecting the livelihoods of artisanal fisherfolk.