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Oceana, PEJC call for repeal of ordinances allowing commercial fishing in Tañon Strait

By: Rosalie O. Abatayo July 26,2020 - 12:11 PM

Tañon Strait which is known for its rich biodiversity is an important habitat of sharks like these hammerhead sharks. | Contributed Photo/ Oceana

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Environment groups Oceana and Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) took to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) its opposition and call for the repeal of ordinances passed by some municipalities along Tañon Strait allowing commercial fishing in the protected seascape.

In a position paper submitted to the DENR on July 9, 2020, the groups said they oppose the measures allowing commercial fishing boats to operate in Taňon Strait “as these are clear violations of the Constitution and other environmental laws.”

Tañon Strait is the body of water between the province of Cebu and the Negros Island which is a declared a protected seascape under Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System or ENIPAS. It is home to cetaceans and large marine mammals.

Tañon Strait map (Grabbed from Oceana)

According to Oceana, at least two LGUs in Cebu’s south have already passed ordinances allowing small-scale commercial fishing in Tañon Strait.

In their position paper, Oceana and the PEJC said the ordinances “violate the social justice provision of the Philippine Constitution and the Fisheries Code that provide preferential use of communal marine and fishing resources for subsistence fishermen.”

“Local governments are required to comply with the law and regulations issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), specifically DILG Memorandum Circular Nos. 2018-59 and 2018-147, the amended Provincial Fisheries Ordinance of the Cebu Provincial Government, and the vessel monitoring requirement policy of the Tañon Strait Protected Area Management Board ratified in April, 2017,” Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said.

Commercial Fishing

The group asserted that under the Fisheries Code, commercial fishing is not allowed in protected areas like the Tañon Strait.

“Commercial-scale fishing boats are boats that are more than 3.1 gross tonnage,” the group qualified.

According to Ramos, their position is backed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Central Visayas (BFAR-7).

READ: PB rejects Toledo’s bid to allow commercial fishing

In 2018, the Cebu Provincial Board rejected Toledo City’s bid to allow commercial fishing in its municipal waters, particularly 10.1 to 15 kilometers from its coastline.

The Provincial Board’s Committee on Environmental Conservation and Natural Resources then said that the ordinance contradicted existing Philippine environmental laws.

“It must be borne in mind that the Toledo City waters is under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-Nipas) so the control is not with the City but with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the management of the protected area is placed under the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB),” the committee report dated October 30, 2018 reads.

Tañon Strait is for ‘poor fishermen’

Lawyer Liza Eisma-Osorio, managing trustee of PEJC, said that Tañon Strait is for the poor fishermen who should not be mistaken for the fishers who work for commercial fishing businesses.

“I think this is where the confusion lies. When politicians speak of mananagat they put the capitalists and the subsistence fisherfolk in the same category and mislead the public into understanding that the law is repressive because it denies the poor fisherfolk from catching fish,” Eisma-Osorio said.

“The truth is it is the exact opposite. The words and the intent of the law are clear: Tañon Strait is for the poor marginal subsistence fisherfolk and not for the rich capitalist fishers who use expensive boats,” she added.

Eisma-Osorio said more that 40,000 marginal fisherfolks will be “robbed” of their supposed catch if commercial fishing will be allowed in the protected seascape.

In a press statement, the two environmental groups called for the repeal of the ordinances and called on all LGUs to prioritize the conservation of its marine wealth and the protection of its marginal fishers. / dcb

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