Tuesday, February 11, 2014

CamSur summit to push commercial fishing ban, close season in Ragay Gulf
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Feb. 10 (PNA) -- Camarines Sur Vice Governor Fortunato Peña has called for a summit of stakeholders of the fishing industry in Ragay Gulf to formulate a unified fisheries ordinance (UFO) in the 12 coastal towns in Camarines Sur.

The meeting aims to propose a commercial fishing ban and the enforcement of species-specific close season in Ragay Gulf, a wide triangular body of water with an estimated fishing area of about 3,600 square kilometers and with boundaries shared by Camarines Sur, Bondoc Peninsula and Quezon.

Peña, pushing the initiative of Board Member Giovanni A. Señar, directed the provincial board’s secretariat to call for a summit of fisher folk, local policy makers and government agencies to formulate unified regulations and sanctions regarding the fisheries concerns of Ragay Gulf.

Señar, vice chair of agriculture and fisheries committee, invited resource persons from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and municipal committees on fisheries and aquatic resources for their regular session of the provincial board tomorrow to shed light on the enforcement of fisheries laws in the towns along Ragay Gulf.

He said the resource persons are expected to identify policy gaps and conflicting provisions of the municipal fisheries ordinance in each town and make recommendations for the formulation of a UFO that, he said, will serve as a framework for the formulation of fisheries ordinances of the towns along Ragay Gulf.

The provincial board member cited the Balatan municipal fisheries ordinance that allows commercial fishing up to 10.1 kilometers from the shoreline instead of the primary provision of Fisheries Code of 1998 setting 15-km distance from the shoreline as municipal fisheries.

Señar said commercial fishers effectively encroach into 4.9-km area of municipal waters, though allowed by Section 18, paragraph two, of the Fisheries Code of 1998 under the option given to municipal and city governments to enact ordinance allowing commercial fishing “within ten point one (10.1) to fifteen (15) kilometers area from the shoreline.”

Provincial Fisheries Officer Santiago Noblefranca confirmed the existence of a Balatan fisheries ordinance that allows commercial fishing 5 km inside the municipal fishing grounds.

Noblefranca said he was told the town council had realized the effect of this ordinance on municipal fishers and will revoke it.

He said there are at least 100 commercial fishing vessels operating in Ragay Gulf on the side of Camarines Sur.

Francisco Ombao, chief of Fisheries Regulatory Law Enforcement, reported that they have apprehended 35 fisheries law violators in Burias Pass along and have filed 50 cases at the prosecutors’ office and courts.

Señar explained he prefers an alternative route to unify the fisheries ordinance in Ragay Gulf which is not through usual process via the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council to the town and city councils but through the Provincial Councilors League (PCL).

Being the provincial president and regional chairman of the PCL, he said he will promote a UFO among the members of PCL in the towns along Ragay Gulf.

Ombao said the ordinance will push for total prohibition of commercial fishing inside Ragay Gulf, enforcement species-specific close season to protect fish stocks and allow regeneration, and apprehension based on fish evidence rather than fishing gear.

Antonio J. Olaguer, municipal agriculture officer of Ragay town, revealed that only one midpoint is 16 km or one-km space outside the 15-km municipal waters of Ragay Gulf from a point at Barangay Pagdadamayan in Narciso town Bondoc Peninsula to Barangay Tagbac in Ragay town in Camarines Sur.

Olaguer said the Ragay government has mapped the distances between adjacent points across the waters of Ragay Gulf to mark the municipal waters, and they found out that the midpoints of four other adjacent points all showed they belong to the municipal waters.

Ragay Mayor Ricardo Aquino is open for the revision of their municipal fisheries ordinance based on whatever the provincial board would formulate.

Aquino said the municipal government has no letup in the anti-illegal fishing apprehensions within the jurisdiction of Ragay town based on the town’s resource management plan and municipal fisheries ordinance.

He said most of those apprehended for illegal fishing did not contest the charges and just pleaded guilty and pay the fine of not more than P2,500.

Fr. Gramwel Pitapit, executive director of Caritas, a church-based non-government organization with project areas and beneficiaries in the towns along the Ragay Gulf, welcomes the move to close the gulf to commercial fishing.

Pitapit is also amenable on the enforcement of close season, saying it will help regenerate the fish stocks and the fishing grounds.

Eleven of the 17 towns along Ragay Gulf are in Camarines Sur -- which included Del Gallego, Ragay, Lupi, Sipocot, Libmanan, Pasacao, San Fernando, Minalabac, Bato, Balatan and Bula.

Pitapit said the move initiated by Señar parallels with the development agenda of the fisher folk beneficiaries of their program to synchronize municipal fisheries ordinances along Ragay Gulf. (PNA) LAP/FGS/JME/CBD/