Grant us fish-A A +A
Sunday, September 15, 2013
“DILI ko sigurado kung magkita pami usab kada moadto nana siya sa dagat, pero naandan ko na ang kakulba (I am uncertain if I would see my husband again as he sails off to the sea, but I have learned to live with fear),” said a fisherman’s wife, Edith Lapinig of Barangay Puerto here.
Tirso “the Mananagat” Lapinig is one of the small fishermen in barangay Puerto here. He is a father of three, and a good husband to her beautiful wife, Edith Lapinig. He has been a fisherman for around fifteen years, and he feeds his family through his catch.
“The sea is my home, and the sea is at home with me,” he said after sharing a story about fish sanctuaries and how he guards them.
Before sailing off, the Mananagat sharpens his dull arrows for a few minutes to make sure it can pierce through the fishes with precision as the water current could sometimes derail the arrow’s travel if dull. Apart from preparing his arrows, he would also make sure that his makeshift fishing equipment called pasol (fishing rod made of bamboo) is in excellent condition.
He would then make sure that his petromax lantern is in great working condition because it serves as his reliable source of light if his plea for a clear night sky is denied and to lure fishes toward his boat.
After his preparation, he kisses his wife and kids before he sails off to the ocean with other fishermen.
Aware of the dangers he is about to endure, and with hopes of a bountiful catch so he can put something on the table the next day, he paddles hard together with the other fishermen toward the seemingly familiar but life-threatening waters.
But unfortunately, a bountiful catch happens rarely to these fishermen these days.
Measly to zero catch
“Naa gyud panahon nga zero gyud kung mamasol ka og gabie...luoy kaayo ang panginabuhi, (There are times when we can’t catch anything,” said Tirso.
There are instances that he and his colleagues would only sold around P100 to P200 worth of fish in Puerto’s public market.
Tirso’s buddy Wilmer Sambaan is also a hardworking fisherman from Bonbon. But amid his efforts, he can barely provide for his family’s needs.
Wilmer said that he goes fishing after breakfast to catch tamban. After that, he charges his batteries, gets some rest and prepares his fishing equipment to sail again around 5:00 p.m. and comes home at around 7:00 a.m. the next day.
The fisherfolks from Bonbon can catch from one-half foam to two foams that would only cost around P200 to P700 pesos if sold in Cogon and Carmen markets.
“Kung naa pud na sila dili nami makakuha...sa ako lang makakuha rako og isa ka gallon (If the commercial fishing vessels are around I can only catch one gallon,” said Julito Casilac, a fisherman also from barangay Puerto.
With callous hands and weary shoulder, white-haired and exasperated fisherman Antonio Amancio cut the silvery nets inside his 15-footer pump boat docked on the sands in Barangay Bonbon.
Antonio has been sleepless as he just came in hours ago from a fruitless overnight fishing trip that yielded no catch, “Not a single fish in the sea last night (Friday night, September 12),” Antonio said shaking his head, as if ready to surrender to the fate of going out to seas and get less and even lesser catch.
The night before, the moon is up almost full, illuminating the seas of Macajalar Bay, sending the fish deeper into the ocean.
Along with Antonio are the other countless fishermen who went out in a fleet hoping to catch some fish – their only means of living to sustain their families.
“There are at least more than a hundred of us,” Antonio said, referring to the fleet of fishermen, “That’s only from Bonbon,” Antonio said.
As he cut through the nets that were tattered, worn out by the countless expedition in the nearby water, sweat dripped through his forehead. The heat of the canvass that acts as a shelter added more heat.
The glimmer of the waters going out to the seas as the high tide ebbs, and the slow constant rush of small waves rock Antonio’s pump boat swaying with the motion of the sea.
On the other pump boats, other fishermen busied themselves with repairs and cleanup.
Like Antonio, their venture into Macajalar Bay, once considered as one of the most natural harbors in the country, yielded nothing.
“There were times that for days, there are really nothing out there,” Antonio said.
That “nothing” is the fish locally known as sardines or tamban in the local dialect. Most of them depend on catching tamban in the bay.
To catch other variety of fish, they have to catch tamban first to use them as bait, “There are new baits, the plastic ones, but they are not like the real fish, very few can be caught with it, and it is expensive too,” Antonio said.
Another fisherman shared that if there is an open season of tamban, the trawlers or commercial fishing vessels would inch their way into the coastal waters where tamban are found.
“They can haul as much as a thousand kilo in just one go, while, us fishermen, can only have as much as 50 kilograms in a good night,” shared another fisherman.
As the conversation went, they almost said in unison, “It’s not just one trawler, there are many of them”
Antonio explained that the rapid depletion and unsustainable supply of tamban is due to those trawlers that can harvest so much in so little time.
It also causes, at times, the high cost of tamban which is supposed to be very affordable, “When the tamban have all been fished by the trawlers, the price can go as high as 80 pesos per kilogram, “When the trawlers harvest them, it can dip as low as 20 pesos per kilo,” another fisherman explained.
Surely, their income is way too low considering the difficulties of fishing twelve hours overnight and the daily cost of living in our region.
One of the culprits why Wilmer and the rest of the fishermen could not catch anything is the commercial fishing in municipal waters that has been going without letup on for the last six years.
Wilmer said that commercial fishing vessels use fine nets that could swoop off fishes so easily and in large numbers.
According to him commercial fishing vessels can make the municipal waters ‘peaceful’ in a span of three days. By saying ‘peaceful’ he means that these vessels hoarded the fishes that were inside municipal waters.
Fishermen from Bonbon have observed that commercial fishing boats sail at around 5:00 a.m. to survey and lure fishes toward them using halogen lamps.
“Daghan kaayo na sila commercial fishing boats...dili lang na isa tapos mag balik-balik na sila hangtod nga halos mahurot na ang isda (There are a lot of commercial fishing vessels...and they would repeatedly hoard the fishes until almost nothing is left,” said Wilmer.
Wilmer identified the commercial fishing vessels named: Pongpong, Minsorina, Niko, Digs, and Lucy. These vessels are from Jasaan and Opol towns in Misamis Oriental.
It is important to note here that according to Republic Act (RA) 8550 or also known as the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, commercial fishing is prohibited in municipal waters (15-kilometer expanse of waters from the shoreline).
This unfair competition from big trawlers not only tramples the rights of the fisherfolk but also violates the Catch Ceilings clause of the RA 8550.
Catch Ceiling refers to the annual catch limits allowed to be taken, gathered or harvested from any fishing area in consideration of the need to prevent overfishing and harmful depletion of breeding stocks of aquatic organisms.
Scarcity breeds violence
The small fishermen, due to their diminishing catch brought about by the repeated violation of commercial fishing vessels, have resorted to “stealing” or “pagpanapaw” to feed their families.
But the fisherfolk argued that it is not “stealing” because the fishes inside municipal waters should be for them and not for the commercial fishers based on the fisheries code.
On the other hand, the owners of commercial fishing vessels complained that the fishermen are thieves or “mananapaws” because they get inside their fishing nets to steal their catch.
This conflict between commercial fishing vessels and the fishermen resulted to violence that involved the use of guns and what not.
“Kanang Lucy nga commercial fishing vessel mao na ang kusog mamusil. Ang kanang Digs mao na ang kusog mamangga (The commercial vessel Lucy is responsible for the shooting. Digs is responsible for running over the fisherfolks’ boats),” said Wilmer.
Antonio shared that his fishing boat was ran over by a trawler, cutting it in half, “They (trawlers) are funded by big money, they can pay any violations,” Antonio said.
Wilmer testified that Digs allegedly wrecked Antonio’s fishing boat into half. It was reported to Jasaan police in June this year.
“Nanglutaw gyud na silang Tonyo ba kuyog ang katong taga Jasaan pagka-tunga sa ilang bangka (Tonyo and his companions floated in the water after their boat was wrecked into half),” Wilmer said.
Inefficient law enforcement
“Muragnaaymga connection dihasasulod. Matingala mi nganongmakabalosilanga mag seaborne patrol (It seems that commercial fishers have connections inside. We have been wondering why during the seaborne patrols you cannot see a single commercial fishing vessel in the municipal waters),” said Merlyn Magsalay, a barangay kagawad of Bonbon.
Magsalay said the Philippine Maritime Police cannot blame them for suspecting because that is what they have observed.
“In spite of the lack of personnel, we can still manage the law enforcement operations (and enforce) the R.A. 8550,” Senior Superintendent Cupid Calica, chief of the PNP Maritime-Northern Mindanao told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro in a dialogue with the fisherfolk at the city hall on September 11.
Calica added there should be enough law enforcement not only by the police but also by the local government units (LGUs).
For his part, Mayor Oscar Moreno acknowledged that the problem originated from the inefficient law enforcement by the LGUs.
Moreno said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has promised it will be active in addressing the concerns of fisherfolk beginning next year as its budget has been doubled to implement more programs for the fisherfolk.
“Paghuman atong dialogue ang among hangyo gyud nga ipatuman ang RA 8550,” said Wilmer.
The small fishermen in Cagayan de Oro believe that if the fisheries code of the Philippines will be implemented efficiently there will be plenty of catch available for them and their families.
Julito Casilac, a fisherman from barangay Puerto also suggested that if the maritime police or whoever is in-charge should patrol on the municipal waters all the time so they can effectively shun away commercial fishing boats from the municipal waters.
Because at present, there are too few fishes for the fishermen while they have too many mouths to feed.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 16, 2013.