By Ellson A. Quismorio
Infanta, Quezon — Mayors of fishing towns had better get their acts together.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Manny Piñol told fisherfolk in the coastal village of Dinahican here that he will ask President Duterte to suspend local chief executives who do nothing against illegal fishing activities.
“I’ve asked the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) to identify the towns with mayors who are doing nothing to stop illegal fishing activities in their localities,” Piñol said in Filipino during a forum with local fishermen Friday morning.
Piñol discussed before Dinahican residents several DA projects in the pipeline, but vowed that those involved in illegal fishing won’t be made beneficiaries.
One of these projects is a special ID card for fishers which they can use to avail of a DA loaning program.
Piñol said that the BFAR, an attached agency of the DA, will soon get two patrol helicopters which it will use in going after illegal fishers.
“I’ll recommend to Duterte to have the mayors who can’t stop illegal fishing suspended,” he added. His statement was met with a roaring applause by those in attendance.
Piñol said the move is part of the DA’s aim of eliminating the practice of illegal fishing.
He said that according to BFAR, the Philippines — an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands — loses R30 billion a year due to illegal fishing and foreign poaching of aquatic resources.
“That’s a lot of money,” commented the former governor of North Cotabato.
Piñol cited the case of the coastal waters of Zamboanga which he said is being frequented by tuna again after authorities addressed the illegal fishing problem.
“For a while, there was no tuna in Southern Philippines. They came back because there are now smaller fishes for them to feed on,” he explained.
He said that stopping illegal fishing activities would benefit no one else but the fishers themselves.