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Sabang, Coron Bays placed under gov't protection.

TWO of the country's most famous diving spots were placed under official government protection due to the threat of being destroyed by tourist activities.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said he had declared Sabang Bay in Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro and Coron Bay in Palawan as water quality management areas (WQMAs) to boost efforts to protect their rich marine biodiversity from the impact of tourism.

Sabang Bay and Coron Bay are world-class dive sites with great visibility and masses of underwater life. Sabang Bay is part of the world-famous Verde Island Passage.

Aquatic views

To the west of Sabang Bay, separated by the Batangas Channel, is Muelle Bay which is the only bay in the country that made it to the list of the world's most beautiful bays in 2005.

The aquatic views from the sunken World War II Japanese ships in Coron Bay are listed in Forbes Traveler Magazine's top 10 best scuba diving sites in the world.

Their designation brought the total number of WQMAs in the country to 25.

Paje said designating them was critical to safeguard the ecosystem from the rapid growth of tourism activities in Coron and Puerto Galera while sustaining the economic benefits for the host communities.

The diving tourism and the associated residential and commercial developments along with the impact of climate change exert a considerable pressure on the coral reefs around Coron and Puerto Galera, he said.

More teeth

Paje said the WQMA designation would provide more teeth to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the local government, communities and other stakeholders to undertake control measures against pollution, water quality problems and development issues in Sabang Bay and Coron Bay.

A multiagency governing board headed by the regional director of the DENR's Environmental Management Bureau will make policies to protect the water quality of Sabang Bay and Coron Bay.

Barangay Sabang

The governing board will also create a multisectoral group to assist in monitoring and reporting activities that affect the two bays.

The Coron Bay WQMA covers the bay itself and eight of the 23 barangays in the municipality of Coron.

The rivers that traverse Coron drain into an area about 5.5 hectares in size located within the eight coastal villages.

The Sabang Bay WQMA covers the bay itself and the whole Barangay Sabang covering 449 hectares.

Barangay Sabang is critical to the bay's overall water quality as 283 hectares or 63 percent of its land area serves as the drainage site for all the surface water from Puerto Galera's 12 other barangays.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 8, 2016
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