Two city councilors figured in a heated exchange during the City Council’s regular session Monday over an application for a 1,200-square-meter fish corral (locally known as baklad) in Barangay Santa Lucia.
Councilor Peter Maristela had sought to block an endorsement by the committee on agriculture, food and fisheries, chaired by Councilor Victor Oliveros, in favor of an individual applicant, a certain Marcelo Evediente, to establish a fish coral off Santa Lucia.
As Oliveros sought the Council’s approval of the application, Maristela insisted Evediente’s expansive fish corral will displace small fisher folks who are also utilizing the same area for their livelihood.
Maristela cited a provision in the Local Government Code (LGC) that mandate the City Council to conduct a public bidding for fisher folk organizations who want to put up a fish corral.
“There are active fisher folk groups in Sta. Lucia, as well as in nearby fishing villages of Luzviminda and Mangingisda,” Maristela said.
He argued that giving an exclusive right to a single fisher folk will deprive the already marginalized ones.
Oliveros, his voiced raised in an apparent display of impatience, denied Maristela’s claim that the fish corral will displace other local fishermen in the area.
“That 1,200-square-meter fish corral is just a little area considering the vast waters of Puerto Princesa,” Oliveros said. “This will not deprive our marginal fishermen of their fishing rights.”
Oliveros argued that the applicant had gone through the process and already complied all the requirements imposed by the City Agriculture Office and other related city government offices.
Maristela repeatedly refused to give ground, prompting the presiding officer of the session, Councilor Jimmy Carbonnel, to call for several session recesses.
City Legal Officer Atty. Christine Longno upheld the committee stand, stating that the LGC provision cited by Maristela is optional and that it was up to the City Council to pursue a public bidding.
“According to RA 7160 (LGC), ‘public bidding may be done,’ so it is not mandatory and it is upon the wisdom of this August body to allow the conduct of a public bidding,” she said.
She said the City Ordinance 57-97 or the City’s Basic Fisheries Ordinance also provides that “only when no qualified applicants who have signified their intent to avail of the preferential right shall the Sangguniang Panglungsod invite other parties to participate in a public bidding.”
Longno said the City’s Basic Fisheries Ordinance, as well as the City’s Revenue Code, even allow up to 5,000-square-meter fish corral.
City Councilor Nesario Awat sided with Maristela, pointing out the city’s failure to post notices in strategic areas, as required in the fisheries ordinance, that would supposedly inform other fisher folk groups who may also want to apply for the said fish corral area.
“If there are two or more who are interested then that’s the time that there will be a bidding. That should be the usual procedure, as part of due process” he said.
Majority floor leader Jonjie Rodriguez cut the debate with a motion calling for the adoption of the committee’s recommendation, which was approved by the body.
Rodriguez later told reporters that the City Council, while recognizing the objections of lawyers Maristela and Awat, would at the end rely on the legal opinion from the City Legal Office.
He said the bidding process is counterproductive as it entails additional expenses on the part of applicants who will be required to pay a certain amount for the bidding documents.