CONGRESS and the Office of the President are being asked to declare the Visayan Sea off-limits to commercial fishing.

In a resolution signed yesterday, Gov. Hilario Davide III and representatives of marginal fishermen want the “waters composing the entire Visayan Sea as a national marine reserve area available only for small marginal/subsistence fishermen.”

The Visayan Sea borders the northeastern part of Cebu, the northern part of Negros Occidental, the northwestern part of Iloilo and the southern part of Masbate.

Other signatories

Aside from Davide, the other signatories were Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon; Cebu Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) Head Czareem Estela; and Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor’s representative Dr. Ildefonso Toledo, among others.

Masbate Acting Gov. Vicente Homer Revil has yet to sign the resolution.

A provision of the resolution states that the officials have realized that marine resources in the Visayan Sea are on the brink of collapse of decades of abuse and neglect, which prompted them to limit fishing to marginal and subsistence fishermen.

And despite efforts of local government units (LGUs) to protect everything inside 15 kilometers from their coast, commercial fishing continues “to encroach on fishing ground constitutionally reserved for small and marginal fisher folks,” the resolution said.

The officials want national government agencies to not only take the lead (in protecting the Visayan Sea) “but to pledge their support by providing personnel, necessary funds, and make this as the priority of their respective agencies and or departments.”

Awarding

The signing was held during the “7th Governors’ Meeting on Protection of Visayan Sea” in Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island.

Dako akong kalipay kay kining (I’m very happy that) Visayan Sea expanded its ground, ug daghan nang mga (a lot of) young blood mo-takeover (will take over),” Marañon said.

Meanwhile, environmentalist lawyer Atty. Antonio Oposa Jr. said the Senate already promised to expedite the passage of the bill once it reaches its members.

Also during the activity, the officials awarded plaques to recipients of “Champion of the Visayan Sea.”

In the group category, the champion was the Negros Occidental Task Force Lawod.

The LGU category went to the Sagay City Natural Environment Office in Negros Occidental for establishing a 32,000-hectare marine reserve.

The award for individual category went to Alejandro Malijoc of Manapla, Negros Occidental.

In the open category, the “Jojo de la Victoria Champion of Visayan Sea Award” went to the Malapascua Bantay Dagat Team, also known as “Migo sa Iho (Friend of the Shark).”