SARANGANI Bay in southern Philippines, more known as a central source of the country’s tuna industry, is a diving hotspot that remains largely untapped.
“Those who have had the opportunity to visit the region’s dive sites expressed that our diving areas are at par with international diving spots,” the Department of Tourism’s SOCCSKSARGEN regional office said as it recently launched the Dive Sox program.
SOCCSKSARGEN covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato (also referred to by its old name North Cotabato), Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City.
The Dive Sox campaign is intended to promote and build up the diving sector in the region, which currently has only one dive center — the South Point Divers-Sarangani based at the Lemlunay Resort in Maasin town.
The dive program, the tourism office said, “aims to expand the dive areas to Glan, which launched its own program last year, and to the coastal municipalities of Sultan Kudarat province.”
The potential diving area in Sultan Kudarat is along the clustered coastal towns of Kalamansig-Lebak-Palimbang, which is being pushed for declaration as a protected area.
Sarangani Bay is already a declared protected seascape. Its coral resources cover more than 2,293 hectares with about 60 important live hard coral genera, 411 reef species in 46 families, according to the Department of Tourism.
Marine mammal species such as spinner dolphins, risso’s dolphins, and sea cow or dugong are also often sighted in the area.
During the recent celebration of the SarBay Festival — which was put on hold in the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic — seven dugongs swam close to shore of Barangay Gumasa, delighting locals, officials, and visitors.
“It is quite a coincidence that these marine mammals appeared just in time with our celebration of SarBay Fest 2022!” said Sarangani Bay Protected Area Superintendent Joy C. Ologuin.
Ms. Oloquin stressed that the “soft comeback” of the festival remained focused on environmental protection and sustainable tourism.
Among the “party” highlights were beach and underwater clean-up activities, and collection crown of thorns starfish, which prey on coral reefs.
General Santos City, with its recently upgraded international airport, is the main gateway to the region. — MSJ