THE Iloilo Provincial Government, through its Bantay Dagat Task Force, is seeking the prosecution of the owners, boat captains and other high-ranking officials manning four hulbot-hulbot "(Danish seine) boats that were apprehended this year.
Led by Senior Police Officer 1 Jose Ronnie Panes and Police Officer 3 Philip Canoso, the task force filed separate criminal complaints against boat captains Herman Tanes of F/B Bherry, Celso Zapa of F/B Julita, and Ronald Santillan of F/B Rosal, and their crew.
Also charged in a separate case were boat captain Ronilo Gallardo of Carles town and owner Ronal Villanuena, who is currently at large, whose 24 crewmembers were caught fishing 8.28 kilometers from Gigantes Island, Barangay Asluman, Carles, last June 23.
They have been facing charges for violation of Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 246, which bans the operation of Danish seine and modified Danish seine in the country, as well as Section 86 of Republic Act (RA) 10654, the provision that penalizes unauthorized fishing in the amended Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.
The complaints were endorsed to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office for inquest investigation, and should there be a probable cause, an information will be filed at Branch 66 of Regional Trial Court in Barotac Viejo and in Balasan Municipal Circuit Trial Court.
Of the four complaints, only Tanes and his crew had to face additional charges for violation of Presidential Decree 1829 or Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders after they “intentionally and deliberately cut their scaring lines” during the time of arrest.
According to Panes’s report, the fishermen's actions left important evidences like the scaring lines, tom weight and fishing net at the bottom of the sea that could no longer be retrieved.
“After their arrest, the legal battle begins. Our goal is to prosecute them all and the good thing about this is the fact that none of the complaints we filed have been dismissed,” said Panes in an interview.
Danish seine, including its modified form, is an active gear often used in commercial fishing. It consists of a conical net with a pair of wings, the end of which are connected to a rope that serves as scaring device hauled through a mechanical winch.
If the fishermen are found guilty, they will suffer two to 10 years of imprisonment and pay P100,000 to P500,000 fine under FAO 246, while a penalty of P150,000 to P500,000 fine and six months of imprisonment will be imposed for medium-scale commercial fishing under Section 86 of RA 10654. (Jezza A. Nepomoceno/PR)