Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bicol top cop submits self to Napolcom probe
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, July 24 (PNA) -- With the controversial issue on illegal fishing payola implicating Chief Supt. Victor Deona, Bicol police regional director, and Supt. Oscar Regala, Police Regional Intelligence Officer, the Bicol top cop personally submitted himself for thorough investigation of the National Police Commission here.

Deona made the move on Thursday during the Regional Advisory Council Meeting presided by Rep. Leni Robredo, which was attended by Napolcom Regional Director Eduardo Santos Jr., Bishop Joel “Bong” Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi, Deona, other ranking police officials and other members of the council here.

He personally requested the Napolcom official to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the illegal fishing payola to ferret out the truth regarding the controversial issue to clear his name regarding the matter.

Earlier, the Bicol police chief admitted that the Philippine National Police-Bicol had been receiving payola from illegal fishing activities but when he assumed his post as regional director two years ago he stopped the reported practice in the past at the police regional office.

Deona has been a well-known straight, strict and highly respected police official among his peers down to the non-commissioned police officers owing to his remarkable supervision and accomplishments that has made the PNP Bicol office as number one regional police office in the country.

No wonder his peers, the public and friends was filled with disbelief when he was accused of receiving “grease money” from illegal fishing operators after PNP Bicol's series of apprehensions of big-time commercial fishing vessels owned by local mayors in Quezon province.

The illegal fishing cases are now under court litigation in Masbate and in Sorsogon provinces.

Baylon, who was formerly assigned in the island-province of Masbate and who fought the illegal fishing activities a few years ago, admitted before the Regional Advisory Council that these activities are difficult to curtail as commercial fishing operators go on their business under the very noses of local officials in the province.

“Illegal fishing activities in Masbate are very difficult to curtail. Most of the big-time commercial fishing vessels operators are armed and even went beyond the marginalized fishermen,” the prelate said.

Robredo also admitted that massive illegal fishing is also taking place in Camarines Sur not only in the province of Masbate.

She asked Baylon to form a special task force from the church group across the region to investigate the extent of illegal fishing operation in Bicol.

Robredo said Deona’s accomplishments on illegal fishing could not be questioned as the Bicol top cop has done a remarkable task to get rid of big-time commercial fishers despite lack of equipment.

He told the Philippines News Agency that during peak seasons, 65 percent of the country’s fish catch came from Masbate, one of the richest fishing grounds in the Philippines.

Deona said big-time illegal fishers operating in the waters of Bicol come from Zamboanga, Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Quezon provinces.

These groups are operating within the waters of Burias Pass and Asid Gulf.

Another group, the Lucena-Quezon group, operates in Burias Pass and Ragay Gulf, according to Deona.

Also operating in these areas are the Bicol group and the Navotas-Malabon-Cebu fishers, which also operate in Sibuyan Sea and are equipped with state-of-the-art fish finders and armed men, the Bicol top police official said.

“At nighttime, the Burias Pass is like a 'city of light' or a metropolis due to the presence of mushrooming 'pangulong' commercial fishing vessels with super lights and equipped with fish finders and sonar detectors. These haul fish, big or small, sadly destroying the coral reefs, especially in Masbate and Albay's west coast, as illegal fishers, mostly commercial fishers, rape our seas,” Deona said.

He said the pangulong operation is the most damaging in Bicol waters.

“There’s heavy pressure on the PNP but we are serious in our campaign to save our marine resources. While there is time, we need to act together to curtail illegal fishing to save our seas and biodiversity," Deona said.

The pangulong fishing boat drags a gaping net along the ocean floor and the trawl nets capture anything in their path and seriously damage the seafloor.

The otter trawl is the most widely used bottom-fishing gear as it is dragged forward, a pair of flat plates called otter boards—one on each side of the trawl net and weighing several tons—spreads horizontally to keep the mouth of the trawl open at the same time, a long rope with steel weights keeps the mouth open along its bottom edge.

This method is prohibited under the Fisheries Code of the Philippine enacted in 1998.

Unfortunately, Republic Act No. 8550, according to local authorities and fishermen here, is totally futile as the law failed to protect the livelihood and marine environment all over the country.

The more than a decade fisheries law was enacted during the incumbency of former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos and aims to uplift the lives of small fishermen, promote food security for 100 million Filipinos and protect the biodiversity, ecosystem and environment from internal and external factors. (PNA) RMA/FGS/RBB/CBD/rsm