By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
A local fisherfolk group urged the government to look into the alleged involvement of local government and former military officials in the practice of bottom trawl fishing in municipal waters.
The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier issued joint memorandum circular 2018-03 “strengthening enforcement of bottom trawl ban within municipal waters.”
“Bottom trawling is a method of fishing operated in the seabed; it disturbs ocean floors and destroys coral reefs. This destructive method of fishing is very rampant in the 15-kilometer municipal waters causing interruption to the livelihood of small fisherfolk,” said Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) national chairperson Fernando Hicap.
“Local government officials, commercial fishing operators, and retired police and military generals are the usual owners of bottom trawls. Municipal fishers are the least complicit in the fishing method because only those who have capital are capable of possessing trawls,” he added.
Pamalakaya said DA-BFAR and DILG must show its sincerity on its crackdown against trawlers by pursuing investigation to the “big-time culprits” who are allegedly the town mayors and military officials.
“We certainly welcome the order of the BFAR and DILG although the move was a long overdue. Many productive seagrasses, seedbeds, and coral reefs that serve as fish habitats in the municipal waters have been destroyed due to the non-stop expedition of bottom trawlers and other large-scale commercial fishing fleets,” Hicap said.
The fisherfolk group also criticized the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 and its amendments under the Republic Act 10654 for failing to prevent commercial fishing in the municipal waters.
Contrary to the promulgation of the amended Fisheries Code which said will add teeth to the fisheries law against illegal fishers, Pamalakaya said the teeth added to the law were actually intended to curtail the fishing activities of small fisherfolk who use passive and traditional methods of fishing.
“We have been always the target of this anti-fisherfolk Fisheries Code. Stiff penalties and exorbitant fishing fees and taxes have been imposed in every coastal town at the expense of the small fishers who are considered as the country’s poorest of the poor,” Hicap said.
“We reiterate our call for its lifting and enforce a new fisheries law that is formulated out of democratic consultations among small fisherfolk nationwide,” he added.