LEGAZPI CITY – In the wake of a mounting clamor for more government actions toward the protection of Bicol’s remaining marine resources, the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (RLECC) has organized a multi-agency task force to go after illegal fishing activities in the region’s fishing grounds.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office based in Pili, Camarines Sur had been assigned to head the task force whose members were drawn from the regional Philippine National Police (PNP) office at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Maritime Police and the Philippine Army (PA).
The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Departments of Justice (DOJ), Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units (LGUs) are also members of the task force.
In the organizational meeting conducted here by the RLECC headed by PNP regional director Chief Supt. Cecilio Calleja Jr., it was recalled that nine Bicol-based bishops last September 5 wrote a letter to President Benigno Aquino III appealing for “immediate enforcement of the law against commercial fishing within the coastal waters of Ragay Gulf in Camarines Sur and Burias Pass in Masbate”.
The bishops asked the President to compel and enable marine and coastal resources authorities to apprehend and prosecute commercials fishers who violate the law covering municipal waters, as well as, small fishers who practice illegal fishing, Calleja said.
The President was also asked by the bishops to order the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and BFAR to expedite the formal demarcation of municipal water boundaries as stipulated by the Fishery Code of the Philippines or Republic Act 8550.
Calleja said that the task force will pool together available resources and assets of member agencies of the task force to be able to conduct successful operations against the illegal fishers. “It is now preparing operational plans on how best to totally stop these illegal activities”.
‘With or without that letter sent by the bishops to the President, we are relentless in conducting anti-illegal fishing operations in the region’s territorial waters and we have accomplishments to boast,” the regional police chief said.
Senior Supt. Eduardo Chavez, the PNP regional intelligence chief said that from the period January to September this year, a total of 665 persons were arrested for illegal fishing which resulted in the confiscation of seven commercial fishing vessels, 44 fishing boats, 29 motor boats, nine bancas, 17 compressors, 1,846 kilograms of assorted fish, and the filing of 70 cases. (PNA)