Bishops appeals P-Noy to stamp out illegal fishing in Bicol, particularly by commercial fishers
LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 23 (PNA) -- Nine Bishops in the Bicol region have expressed dismay over the failure of government authorities in stopping the massive illegal fishing activities of commercial fishers in two major fishing grounds in the western seaboard of Bicol.
The bishops have even wrote a letter of appeal to President Benigno S. Aquino III to look into the problem as thousands of poor fisher folks within the Ragay Gulf and Burias Pass are being deprived of their only means of livelihood with the intrusion of commercial fishing vessels in their municipal waters.
Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi, in a Thursday news conference, said the appeal by Bicolano Bishops was in response to the plea of marginalized fisher folks petitioning the President's help in the strict enforcement of the law that specifically prohibits all kinds of commercial fishers to operate within the delineated 15 kilometers municipal waters.
Reports gathered by the prelates indicate that fisher folks in these areas have brought their concerns to local government officials and law enforcement agencies but to no avail.
The letter of appeal was signed by Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi, Archbishop of Caceres; and Bishops Baylon, Diocese of Legazpi; Jose Rojas, Diocese of Libmanan; Gilbert Garcera, Diocese of Daet; Arturo Bastes, Diocese of Sorsogon; Manolo de los Santos, Diocese of Virac; Jose Sora Bishop Emeritus of Legazpi; Lucilo Quiambao, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Legazpi; and the newly installed Bishop Jose Batolo, of the Diocese of Masbate.
The nine prelates is requesting the President to compel and enable marine and coastal authorities to go after and prosecute commercial fishers who violate the law covering municipal waters, as well as fishermen who practices illegal fishing.
They also asked the President to direct the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to expedite the formal demarcation and agreement on municipal waters as stipulated by the Fishery Code of the Philippine (RA 8550.
The Social Action Center (SAC) of the Diocese of Legazpi said filed reports gathered indicate that these illegal fishing operators could be even protected by some public officials and politicians.
They said these commercial fishing vessels operating in the Ragay Gulf and Burias Pass are using the Danish Seine (pangulong), ring net (hulbot-gabot) and purse seine, fishing practices which are allowed only in the high seas.
The Bicol bishops said the entire marine expanse of the bay area within the Ragay Gulf and Burias pass are well within the 15-kilometer municipal fishing waters.
Fr. Jose Victor Lobrigo, president of the Bicol Consortium for Development Initiatives, Inc. (BCDI), a church based organization assisting marginalized fisher folks in Bicol, said affected by the encroachment of commercial fishing operators are 130,620 fisher folks representing 46,098 households in 123 coastal villages along the 439.80 sq.km shoreline on the western peninsula of Bicol.
At the news briefing, Albay Governor Joey Salceda also expressed his concern on the plight of the marginalized fisher folks in the coastal villages in towns Oas, Pioduran, Libon and Ligao City. He said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Albay (SPA) has been looking into the issue that has hounded the lives of small fishermen in the Albay west coast.
Salceda said Albay carries under its environmental templates the messages: "No to Mining; No to Illegal Fishing."
He said the appeal of the Bishops puts greater weight on the actions of the provincial government promoting environmental protection.
“This gets us up to speed in the formulation and implementation of the action plan to protect small fishermen, the biodiversity and sustainable marine resources that are being threatened by "pangulongs" in the Albay West Coast, particularly the Burias Pass,” he said.
Salceda, the Regional Development Council (RDC) chairperson, said he will put to task the council’s Social Development Committee and the RDC will also take action on the bishops' appeal to the President considering the regional nature of the environmental issue. (PNA)