By Calvin Cordova
TOLEDO CITY– The Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) vowed a stricter campaign against all forms of illegal and destructive fishing in Tañon Strait, the country’s largest marine protected area.
In a joint maritime enforcement activity Wednesday, Navforcen warned that regular arrests will be made, and also vowed to protect small-time fishers and law enforcers.
“Tañon Strait is a big area. We need the help of all stakeholders and we can assure that Navforcen’s presence will always be felt in Tañon Strait,” said Lt. Commander Nomer Bilbao, operations head of Navforcen.
The activity was held on board BRP Tarlac, a 404-feet amphibious warship designed to transport troops into a war zone. The ship made its maiden voyage in Tañon Strait and Visayan Sea and anchored in Toledo for the activity, which was facilitated by Oceana, an international ocean conservation organization.
“We thank Oceana for facilitating this activity. After this, Oceana, the Navforcen and the Philippine National Police will craft plans on how to intensify our campaign against illegal fishing,” said Bilbao.
The activity was attended by fisherfolks, officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Bantay Dagat personnel and various anti-illegal fishing volunteers.
Members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter also attended the activity, and pledged to provide legal aid in case volunteers are charged in the conduct of their duties.
“This is a good opportunity for us to air our concerns. We, the small-time fishers, are greatly affected by these overfishing conducted by commercial fishing groups. We are hoping that the Navy will help address our plight,” said Venerando Carbon, president of the Tañon Strait Fisherfolk Federation.
Also during the activity, Navforcen convinced fisherfolk to become navy reservists.
“There will be a better coordination if you become reservists. Tañon Strait is a big area and what
we need here is a close collaboration,” Bilbao said.