City ENRO and other law enforcement team begin to dismantle fish cages in the coastal waters of three barangays in Puerto Princesa on July 9, 2021. | Photo by City ENRO

The City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO) has intensified its demolition of illegally-placed bamboo fish traps, or baklad, in several coastal barangays as part of its Bantay Dagat efforts.
According to a statement sent to Palawan News on Wednesday, some of the fish pens were already abandoned, while some had owners nearby who volunteered to remove the structures themselves.

City ENRO and representatives of other law enforcement teams on their way to remove fish cages or baklad.

The presser added that removing these structures is crucial to ensure the safety of fishermen traveling back to shore and avoid accidents involving the fish pens. This is also to ensure that there is fairness between fisherfolk, because not all can afford to buy materials to set up the baklad to catch more fish.
“The Office of the City ENRO considers baklad [can] pose navigational hazards, are unsustainable, environmentally-destructive, and an unfair practice. Baklad are navigational hazards because these obstructed small fishermen’s route within the municipal waters without any warning lights or devices that may alert approaching individuals,” the presser read.

Made of bamboo poles and fishnets, this baklad was among those removed on July 9. | Photo by City ENRO

“Baklad is also considered as an unsustainable fishing method because these are installed permanently within our coastal waters, catching premature fishes, including fish with spawns, therefore disrupting their natural breeding cycle during the spawning season. If left unregulated, this might cause rapid depletion of our fisheries and other marine resources, “it added. 
The demolitions started on July 9 in barangays Luzviminda, Inagawan-Sub, and Mangingisda.

Present during the activity were SEMS Cardelar Stevie Angel M. Madriñan, who heads the City ENRO Enforcement Division, Luisito Garcia, section head of the Bantay Dagat of the City ENRO Enforcement Division, and other support personnel, including representatives from the City Agriculture’s Office.

Personnel from the national government agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group (SOU-MG) accompanied during the operation, to provide security and maintain peace and order.
“Our fishing grounds should be accessible to all, especially to small fishermen. The absence of baklad within our coastal waters will also allow and give time for our city’s coastal waters and natural environment to rehabilitate, “the presser stated.

This week, a similar activity will be held to continue the campaign to clear the coastal waters of dangerous constructions that have contributed to the deterioration of the coastal environment.

Michael Flores, a former kagawad of Barangay Luzviminda and one of those responsible for the area’s fish cages, has vowed to dismantle them.

The presser said that the caretakers of the other baklad owners, like Goldie Sibuco of Tacduan, Barangay Inagawan-Sub, Bodol Boros of Barangay Mangingisda, and a certain Albert in Tagbarungis, Barangay Inagawan-Sub, have also agreed to demolish their baklads till they are fully gone.

During the operation, the group confiscated one compressor from Bobby Ibanes, caretaker of the baklad owned by Bodol Boros. He was accompanied by five other fishermen in his motorized boat. The use and possession of compression is prohibited by law.   

Previously, City ENRO chief Atty. Carlo B. Gomez has directed his office’s Enforcement Division-Bantay Dagat Section to perform a baklad inventory all across the city’s coastal waters.

Garcia, who leads the Bantay Dagat Enforcement Division, acknowledged that removing the fish cages and associated trash takes time, as they did with the abandoned bamboo poles from a baklad owned by a certain Eric, also a resident of Barangay Inagawan Sub on July 9, 2021.

“Delikado yan na maiiwan ang mga kawayan sa gitna ng dagat, peligro talaga sa mga mangingisda,” said Garcia in the statement.

Granting permits to baklad owners to occupy strategic areas within coastal waters is seen as inequitable because it denies a large number of small and low-income fishermen access to other fishing areas where they are set up.

Operating a baklad requires a large amount of capital for the purchase of bamboo poles, nets, and other accessories, as well as labor for hauling materials and installation, all of which are estimated to cost P100,000 or more, which only the wealthy and middle classes can afford.

Allowing them to take over vast sections of the coastal seas has displaced tiny fishermen, since these are the same places where hook-and-line and subsistence fishermen go fishing for their livelihood, according to the statement.

In such a scenario, a debate rages between rich baklad operators who intercept large quantities of fish via their cages and subsistence fishermen who rely on traditional fishing for their livelihood.

According to Atty. Gomez, although local governments give fishing licenses to a few people, they deny and revoke the rights of the rest of the community. Giving a few individuals an edge over the rest of the community is considered unjust and inequitable.

Fishing areas, according to the City ENRO, should be accessible to everyone, particularly small fishermen. The lack of baklad in coastal waters will also give the city’s coastline waters and natural ecosystem time to recover.