DENR: Small-scale fishers to benefit from demolition project in Manila Bay

Small-scale fisherfolk will benefit from the rehabilitation and dismantling of illegal fishing structures in the Manila Bay, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Usec. Benny Antiporda said Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Antiporda made the assurance as several fisherfolk and fishers' group PAMALAKAYA raised concerns and opposed the department's project by saying that at least 15,000 individuals living in the coastal municipalities, whose livelihood depends on the Manila Bay, would be affected.

"The law is giving us 15 kilometers from the shoreline what is called the 'municipal waters.' These municipal waters are usually the ones where illegal structures are installed, which occupy space and prevent our small fisherfolk from fishing nearby. They even have to sail farther," he said in Filipino in a press briefing.

"So small fisherfolks, those who use small boats, would be the first ones to benefit from the dismantling project. Would you imagine what would happen to the municipal waters once we demolish the illegal structures within one kilometer or a few hundred meters from the shoreline? They can finally fish easily," he added.

On Monday, Sept. 6, several fishermen trooped to the DENR office in Quezon City to oppose the department's activity, which was scheduled to start on Tuesday, Sep. 7.

PAMALAKAYA chair Fernando Hicap said "rehabilitating Manila Bay should be to restore its marine resources for the benefit of small fisherfolk. But the DENR’s thrust says otherwise" as he believed that the fishing structures in the area, which were tagged by DENR as "illegal," "do not pose any pollution or harm to marine biodiversity” as compared to "industrial and commercial establishments rampantly discharging solid and liquid wastes into the water."

Antiporda, in the same briefing, also clarified that mussel and oyster farmers, as long as they are legally operating, would have nothing to worry about as only illegal fishing structures would be dismantled.

"'Yan pong tahungan ay pinapayagan po iyan sa kautusan po ng atin pong Korte Suprema doon po sa mandamus na ang shellfish po ay pinapayagang. Ika nga ay magparami ng shellfish diyan sa ating Manila Bay (Mussel cages are allowed based on our Supreme Court mandamus. The higher court is even encouraging us to grow more)," he said.

According to Antiporda, at least 271 illegal aquaculture structures in Cavite City are set to be demolished, while 97 in Kawit and two in Noveleta.

The activity, which was supposed to start Tuesday, was postponed on the same day as the department would still hold a meeting with various agencies to "finalize the composition of the teams which will undertake the actual marking of illegal structures for demolition and to discuss the schedule for the said activity," DENR's CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) office said in a Facebook post.