Five municipalities in Palawan have been issued a “stern warning” by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for rampant illegal fishing.
The municipalities cited for rampant cases of “Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing” (IUUF) were Cuyo, Coron, Taytay, Linapacan, and Magsaysay.
In a statement, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año identified the Palawan towns among the top 20 municipalities that have the highest number of encroachment or violation in the use of superlight and other artificial light sources, a method of commercial fishing that is banned under the Fisheries Code.
The data had been culled from a technology dubbed Virtual Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), a satellite based imaging system that detects boats via low light imaging data.
The VIIRS technology is being utilized by the department in partnership with Oceana Philippines, a non-government organization involve in the protection and restoration of the oceans.
Registering the most IUUF violation is Tongkil, Sulu with 2,549 total detections followed by Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Del Sur with 2,446; Milagros, Masbate with 1,595; Cawayan, Masbate with 1,350; San Pascual, Masbate with 1,193; Languyan, Tawi-tawi with 1,057; Calauag, Quezon with 1,009; Hadji Mohammad Ajul, Basilan with 973; Linapacan, Palawan with 959; and, Carles, Iloilo with 762.
“Para sa 20 pamahalaang lokal na ito na ating pinadalhan ng warning, mahigpit ang ating paalala na pangalagaan ang ating mga karagatan. IUUF can cause a serious decline in fisheries resources, and can negatively impact food security and livelihoods for coastal communities and fisherfolk,” Año said.
Reaction from municipalities
Linapacan municipal agriculture officer Ignacio Taop in an interview admitted that illegal fishing is happening in their town, but said the perpetrators are from other provinces.
He said that while the LGU is doing its best, they had to rely on maritime law enforcement agencies in coordination with the barangays whose jurisdictions cover the areas.
“Gusto naman namin na pigilan ang illegal fishing dito pero dapat joint operation at joint effort kami ng PNP at [Philippine] Coast Guard kasi kung kami lang ay hindi namin makakaya lahat. Isa pa, kahit anong bawal namin ay may matitigas talaga na ulo na hindi sumusunod. May mga pumupunta rin dito, nahuhuli na galing sa ibang lugar kaya dapat sana talaga joint effort at hindi lang ng munisipyo,” Taop said on May 14.
Magsaysay mayor Manuel Abrea also told Palawan News that illegal fishing activities in their area is hard to control despite numerous operations conducted by the PNP and the PCG
In March and April, Abrea said law enforcers from Magsaysay intercepted several fishing vessels with large numbers of fishermen using superlight and compressor.
“Mayroon pa rin talagang nahuhuli na gumagawa ng illegal dito. Nakasama pa rin kami [sa list ng DILG] kahit sunod-sunod ang mga huli dito,” Abrea said.
The local government of Taytay is set to issue an official statement on Monday, May 17.
Palawan News is still trying to get the side of the towns of Coron and Cuyo.
Maritime law enforcement
2nd Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group (2nd SOU-MG) spokesperson P/Lt. Anna Abenojar said Friday, on the other hand, that maritime law enforcement agencies are doing their best to implement operations to prevent illegal fishing activities, particularly within municipal waters.
Coordination with the barangays and the municipal governments are regular activities they do to respond to the problem.
She said that a dialogue regarding dynamite fishing, cyanide, and use of compressors with the locals are regularly conducted too to ensure that they know why they are prohibited fishing methods.
“Last May 11 and 12 ay nakipag-meeting kami sa LGU Taytay kasama ang manager ng resorts, pearl farms, at ilang NGOs para sa regular na pagpa-patrol doon. Hinikayat din natin ang mga barangay officials na agad mag-report sa PNP Maritime kapag mayroon silang nakitang iligal na nangingsida doon sa kanilang nasasakupan,” Abenojar said.
“Magco-conduct din kami ng dialogue sa mga island barangays tungkol sa effect ng illegal fishing, lalo na ang pagdidinamita, cyanide fishing at paggamit ng compressor, at kung ano ang magiging kaparusahan para sa mahuhuli,” she added.
Abenojar said that there is also a proposal to have a maritime detachment in Cuyo to increase their visibility and the patrol operations of their personnel within the town and Magsaysay.
“Sa Cuyo naman may ginawa na kaming proposal sa headquarters maritime group na maglalagay kami ng isang detachment doon para regular din na magpatrolya also to Magsaysay,” she said.
Coast Guard Puerto Princesa City Station (CGPPCS) chief, Commander Severino Destura said they are also monitoring the movement at sea through their National Coast Watch Station (NCWS) which could help send out their personnel when illegal fishing is being perpetrated.
“Nai-distribute na namin ang information and nakapag-issue na po ng directive to monitor and take action sa presence ng illegal activities sa respective areas of responsibility nila. Hindi kasi natin maitatanggi na kahit may ganitong information ay hindi din kasi real time, may-delay din siya. Kaya intensified patrol pa rin ang aksyon natin dito sa tulong din ng mga marginal fishermen na nagbibigay sa atin ng mga information kung may mga namataan sila na presence ng mga superlight boats,” Destura said.
At the same time, the Palawan Police Provincial Office (PPPO) also vowed to strengthen its effort to address the matter in different towns.
“Tuloy-tuloy ang operation namin sa mga karagatan ng mga miunisipyo, ang ang mga illegal fishing tinututukan natin ‘yan. Katunayan ito ng maraming mga illegal fishermen na na-apprehend ng PNP nitong mga nakalipas na araw, at linggo linggo may mga nahuhuli tayo,” the PPPO said in a statement sent to Palawan News.
Call to LGUs
Board Member Ryan Maminta, vice chairman for Committee on Environment and Natural Resources at the provincial board, said that the warning of the DILG is a wake up call to the municipalities to strictly impose their mandates, especially in the protection of the environment.
“We are saddened but thankful for the data provided by the DILG on the presence and seemingly rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities in five municipalities in Northern Palawan. It must be taken as a wake-up call,” Maminta said.
He said that that rampant illegal fishing in the municipal water will eventually lead to serious environmental destruction.
Maminta also reminded all other local government units to effectively implement their mandates to maintain the sustainability of the environment and marines resources.
“Kasabay nito ay nananawagan tayo sa mga munisipyo na nabanggit na sundan at sundin ang babala ng DILG upang mas mapaigting ang pagpapatupad ng mga batas at ordinansa sa pangisdaan sa kanilang mga sakop na municipal waters. Ito ay upang maging maayos ang gamit [ng] marine resources sa kanilang mga sakop para sa kapakinabangan ng mga maliliit na mangingisda at maging sustainable ito. Gayundin, ito ay panawagan na rin sa iba pang mga munisipyo sa lalawigan na ayusin at pag-igihan ang pagpapatupad ng mga batas sa pangisdaan sa kanilang nasasakupan,” he added. (with reports from Arphil Ballarta)