A top official of Pag-asa island in the West Philippine Sea called for an intensified guarding of the marine resources around their island and reefs against foreign poachers.
In a report sent to the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in camp Aguinaldo, Meldy Pernia, secretary for the island administrator, said fishermen from Pag-asa were deeply concerned about illegal activities of foreign fishermen, especially the Chinese and Vietnamese, around the island.
Pernia said the Coast Guard, Pag-asa barangay officials and fishermen regularly chased away the illegal fishers, some of whom use dynamite and cyanide in fishing.
These illegal activities were ruining the natural ecosystem and physical makeup of the “bahura” or the coral reefs around Pag-asa, said Mary Joy Batiancila, Pag-asa island administrator.
It has led to a drop in the fish catch and income of our own fishermen, Batiancila said.
“We cannot arrest them even though we have the maritime police with us. We do not have the equipment to stand against them,” she said.
She said all the authorities could do is chase away the illegal fishermen.
“But we can never engage them,” she said.
Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon said the West Philippine Sea is one of the richest fishing grounds of the Philippines.
Batiancila said the area around Pag-asa is abundant with turtles, dolphins, manta rays and various kinds of fish.
Pag-asa is surrounded by 20 to 30 hectares of rich coral reefs which are home to aquarium and commercial fish that provides livelihood and food for its more than 200 residents.
It is often visited by rare types of turtles like the endangered leatherback.
Some three nautical miles away from Pag-asa is the sandbar Pag-asa islanders call “Secret Island,” Batiancila said.
The island is also home to teeming marine life which the Islanders are keeping watch over.