AN ARGUMENT ensued during the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) general assembly yesterday after Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia suggested that commercial fishers need to be included as members of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) executive committee.
Despite this, the PAMB approved the Tañon Strait Management Plan and TSPS 2015 budget.
Garcia described the declaration of the Tañon Strait as a protected area and the 1st TSPS Stakeholder’s Summit as illegal.
“Why? Because that is only the declaration of the president. The president of the country cannot declare any areas as protected area. Only Congress has the power and this has never been brought to Congress,” said Garcia.
On the second day of the three-day summit, the proposed Tañon Strait Management Plan was presented by Tañon Strait Park Superintendent (Pasu) Viernov Grefalde.
The plan aims to address the key threats that the Tañon Strait is currently facing, including illegal commercial fishing, pollution and use of prohibited fishing gear.
Tañon Strait, which is between the islands of Cebu and Negros, is the biggest protected area in the country, covering 5,182 sq. kms.
At least 43,000 registered fisherfolks within the two provinces are dependent on the Tañon Strait.
This was declared a protected seascape by former president Fidel Ramos on May 27, 1998.
Yesterday afternoon, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 Executive Director Isabelo Montejo presided the PAMB General Assembly.
While the TSPS executive committee was being discussed around 3 p.m., Dumanjug Mayor
Based on the presentation, the TSPS executive committee is chaired by the DENR 7 director.
Its members include three officials from the provinces of Cebu, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, three barangay captains, three mayors, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources 7 regional director, an official from the academe and four site management unit chairpersons (SMU), and two representatives from the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils or a people’s organization, “not commercial fishers.”
Garcia suggested to include commercial fishers in the committee.
Montejo opposed this.
“The chair will not allow that,” said Montejo, chairperson of PAMB.
Garcia brought a paper and cited Sec. 16 and 18 of Republic Act 8550, also known as the Fisheries Code of 1998.
He said that under this law the mayor has the jurisdiction over the municipal waters and can allow commercial fishing in his area.
“Mayor, I’m the presiding officer so can I cut you short because that has something to do with the leadership of the executive committee,” Montejo said.
“You want to show that the commercial fishers are illegal, but under the fisheries code, it is legal. You don’t want me to read the law because (you want that) only your opinion (will prevail), not the law,” the mayor said.
While Montejo cited a law that composed the TSPS executive committee, Garcia left the hall.
In an interview, Garcia questioned why DENR is restricting commercial fishing in the Tañon Strait.
He admitted that his town is open to commercial fishing.
In Dumanjug, Garcia said he allowed “payaw” or artificial reef since fishermen earn through this.
He said the commercial fishers take fishes from the payaws of the fishermen.
Garcia also wants whale sharks to be killed since they compete with the fishermen’s catch.
“Right now, I allow (this). If they (fishermen) can catch a whale (shark), kill the whale. Why not? Because whales can eat up to two tons a day of fish... Man should be the first to survive, not the whales, not the fish,” he said.
Montejo said PAMB approved the three-year TSPS Management Plan with the agreement that the output of the three-day summit will be collated and incorporated in the plan.
Based on the proposed plan, Tañon Strait will have two zones, the strict protection zone and multiple use zone.
Montejo said the office of the governor of Negros Occidental withdrew from its membership of PAMB.
Negros Occidental will still be part of the board, but will be represented by the mayor who will be elected in the SMU of the said province.
The board also approved the P10-million TSPS 2015 Budget.
Montejo said the Pasu will prepare the financial plan.
It will be presented to the PAMB for approval before it will be submitted to the DENR secretary.