Sarangani Bay, one of the country’s richest body of water and home to the tuna industry, recently marked another milestone as it celebrated its 24th year as a protected seascape.
To mark the occasion, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 12 in collaboration with the Protected Area Management Board launched the first-ever Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape (SBPS) Week to highlight the efforts to protect and conserve its coastal and marine resources.
The bay was declared a Protected Seascape by former president Fidel Ramos under Proclamation No. 756 in 1996, covering an area of 215,950 hectares.
Held in Gen. Santos City and various parts of Sarangani province, the weeklong observance consisted of mall exhibits of marine species and simultaneous bay-wide cleanups participated in by the 68 barangays, business and tourism establishments along the bay’s coast.
A dive safari and underwater photography contest held at Maitum, Kiamba and Maasim towns showcased Sarangani’s emerging scuba diving sites. Topping the 3-day photo tilt were Bretch Garcinez of General Santos City and East Pardillo of Davao City who won the wide and macro categories, respectively.
Fringe activities included a 3-day environmental forum and enforcement summit, trash to art, mass dance and logo making competitions, and the search for the Ambassadress of SBPS.
Declared by the Department of Tourism as a scuba diving haven in southern Mindanao in 2017, the bay was also listed by the DENR as a Key Marine Biodiversity Areas with coral resources covering 2,293 hectares, 60 important live hard coral genera, 411 reef species, and 11 species of seagrass.
The DENR has also monitored various dolphin species, killer whales, dwarf and pygmy sperm whales in the bay, attesting to its rich biodiversity.
Because of the event’s success, the SBPS Protected Area Management Board passed a resolution declaring March 5 as the annual SBPS Day, and directing local government units, major stakeholders, and partner organizations to take part in the observance.
Sarangani governor and PAMB vice chair Steve Solon lauded the maiden celebration, saying it symbolizes a broader commitment in preserving the bay as a shelter, and source of living and life to the areas around it.
He said that the provincial government is a major stakeholder in the preservation of the bay’s ecosystem through its Sulong Kalikasan program and the Environmental Conservation and Protection Center.
Hugging a coastal road of some 224 kilometers, the bay is host to the Gen. Santos City Fish Port Complex, fisherfolk villages, beach resorts, a coal energy power plant, shipyards, marine parks and sanctuaries, and aquaculture farms.