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The city council will hold public hearings on a proposed law that would end a long-standing ban on trading live fish.

The main supporter of the measure, Councilor Elgin Robert Damasco, said that the current policy is no longer valid and that other laws and rules need to be enforced more strictly.

The current City Ordinance 110, which is called the Ordinance Regulating the Shipment of Live Fish and/or Lobster Outside of Puerto Princesa City, was passed in 1999.

Damasco added that with the reasons for the implementation of the ordinance being illegal fishing methods like the use of cyanide and compressor, law enforcement agencies must be more vigilant to watch for fishermen who employ such methods.

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“Matagal na tayong may ban sa live fish catching and trading, panahon pa ni Mayor (Edward) Hagedorn. Tinanong ko kung ano ba ang dahilan bakit nag-ban. Sabi ng PCSD, ng city fisheries office, CENRO at Bantay Dagat, dahil daw sa massive cyanide fishing at paggamit compressor. So sabi ko, it’s a matter of implementing the rules,” he said.

“Kasi may national law naman yan e – against compressor and cyanide fishing. Ang dami naman nating nagbabantay sa ating karagatan – meron tayong coast guard, Bantay Dagat, may maritime police tayo – so bakit hindi nababantayan yan? So kung i-implement lang sana ng tama yung batas, i-enforce sana, walang magiging problema,” he added.

Damasco further explained that if the reason was overfishing, he might not have thought of amending the ordinance, adding that it does not deter fishermen from engaging in the live fish trade. The problem, he said, is that fishermen bring their products to neighboring towns.

“Kasi ang nangyayari dito, hindi naman natin napipigilan yung mga mangingisda natin pero pumupunta pa sila sa Roxas, yung iba pumupunta pa sa Berong (Quezon) para doon ibenta kasi nga mahal ang bentahan doon. Na-serve ba natin yung purpose? Hindi. Tuloy-tuloy pa rin yung mga mangingisda at hindi nila binibenta dito kasi nga bawal dito,” he lamented.

He also stated that with his proposed ordinance, fishermen will no longer have to travel to other municipalities, and as a result, they will incur fewer expenses and thus, earn more while the city government will also generate income.

“Kung dito sila [sa Puerto,] makaka-generate pa ng income ang Puerto Princesa dahil doon sa aking ordinansa ay magbabayad sila ng P50 per head at makakamura yung mga mangingisda natin kung dito nila ipapa-ship, mas lalaki ang kita nila. Sa ibang munisipyo diyan kumikita at gumiginhawa ang buhay ng mga mangingisda sa live fish trading e. Malaki ang kitaan diyan – nasa P4,000–P5,000 per kilo,” he said.

He said he has already filed his proposed ordinance during the last Sangguniang Panlungsod and it is already pending before the Committee on Agriculture and Aquatic Resources.

While the sanggunian secretariat has not yet set an exact date, he said he plans to conduct the first public consultation in Barangay Inagawan, to be followed by another one in Brgy. Bacungan, and Brgy. San Rafael.

“We will invite representatives from concerned agencies as resource persons like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquati Resources (BFAR), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PSCDS), and, of course, the fisherfolk,” he said.

Meanwhile, aside from lifting the live fish trade ban, Damasco also said he is proposing another ordinance for the regulation of the lobster trade, where he said traders are getting shortchanged by Vietnamese buyers.

He said he learned that the prevailing buying price of lobster is currently at P40–P60, which he said he thinks is unfair for traders. He also wants the Vietnamese nationals to share their technical skills in lobster farming.

“Itaas natin at gawing P100 per lobster,” he said.

“Kausapin natin sila para i-share nila yung technology kung paano ba inaalagaan yan kasi hindi natin alam,” he added.

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