Aquino says local govt must act vs illegal fishers

President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III

LEGAZPI City, Nov. 25, 2011―President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III said it is the responsibility of local government units to protect their fishing grounds from commercial fishers.

This was his reaction to a letter sent by Bicol-based bishops led by the Metropolitan of Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legazpi, OP, DD two months ago calling on the Aquino administration to ban the rampant commercial fishing in municipal waters.

“As far as I recall the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources have deployed a vessel MCS 3001 and apprehended about 11 fishing vessels and filed cases against traders involved in selling dynamited fish,” Aquino said during a hastily prepared press conference at the Bicol University before midday today.

He added if the BFAR still lacks resources to patrol the area, he may ask the Philippine Coast Guard to check provided there would be no conflict with the local government unit who need to enforce laws.

“We thank the good bishops for their support but you must remember we have thousands of coastlines that need to be protected and we need the support of everyone to share their information so we could apprehend those who violate our laws,” he further said.

In September, Bicol prelates led by Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi sent a letter to President Aquino urging him to immediately enforce the law banning commercial fishers from municipal waters.

They said the existing law that prohibits commercial fishing within 15 kilometers of municipal waters is completely being ignored.

The bishops are worried that if not immediately checked, the illegal practice may lead to the depletion of fish stocks and other marine resources.

“We are witnesses of wanton greed of commercial fishers hauling marine resources to unsustainable quantities resulting to the deprivation of the small and marginalized municipal fishers,” the bishops said in their letter.

The areas in question are within Ragay Gulf and Burias Pass which are less than 30 kilometers from the shorelines of opposite municipalities, where commercial fishers are not allowed to trawl. (Melo M. Acuna)