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By: Mylen Manto | Published Monday, July 13, 2020
Fishermen air out their concerns during a meeting with Gov. Gwen Garcia, Deputy Speaker Pablo John Garcia, Cebu Provincial Board members and the Philippine Coast Guard after getting apprehended in May 29 for unauthorized fishing and asked to pay huge amount of fee despite the Covid-19 pandemic. (Tonee Despojo)

While mayors of southern Cebu towns have yet to discuss the possibility of cross-border fishing, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia hopes that fishermen will be allowed to catch fish in other towns as long as municipal water boundaries are respected and mayor’s permit is secured.

“Atong hangyuon ang mayor nga tugtan nalang ang mananagat if adto nas lawod,” she said.

The governor met fishermen in the third and seventh district of Cebu on Saturday, July 11, to discuss the situation following their arrest on May 29, 2020 for unauthorized fishing in Tañon Strait, a protected area, within the municipal waters of Alegria.

Alexander Quiñones, one of 16 fishermen of Malabuyoc town, turned emotional while narrating his experience of having to pay P50,000 to the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) and P16,000 to the Municipality of Alegria despite the current Covid-19 pandemic.

He said they were ordered to sign an undertaking disallowing them from fishing, their main livelihood. However, he claimed that they have all the licenses to operate a small-scale commercial fishing.

This led them to seek the help of Provincial Board (PB) member Jerico Rubio, who then asked Garcia’s help. 

“I-resolve ta ni kung makiangayon ba ang gibayad og ang pagdakop. Karon pa…nagdakop gyud,” the governor said.

Present during the meeting were Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 Director Paquito Melicor, Jr., Deputy Speaker Pablo John Garcia, PB members, Barili Mayor Marlon Garcia, Barili Vice Mayor Julie Flores and their councilors, Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director Roderick Mariano, representatives of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Provincial Legal Officer Donato Villa.

Upon Garcia’s assumption to office last July 2019, she called for a meeting to discuss the issues of fishermen in the south where the Tañon Strait is located. 

In that meeting, PCG agreed that no arrests will be done while all laws, including the ordinance passed by municipal councils, are being harmonized.

“We have to help them get back on their feet. Let’s reaffirm our commitment,” said Deputy Speaker Pablo John Garcia, adding that he will take the matter up with Congress.  He will file a bill to eliminate the allowable fishing distance, and replace this instead with  depths as a gauge for fishing, which is seven fathoms. 

Since the municipal waters of Malabuyoc is not beyond 10.1 kilometers, the fishermen will use the seven fathoms as gauge, as recommended by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO).

Melicor assured the governor that the DENR will work hand in hand with the Cebu Provincial Government to address the issues of fishermen in the south.

Provincial Board Members Christopher “Dong” Baricuatro, Jerome Librando, and Atty. Jimbo Borgonia said they will help for the municipalities to have a consistent ordinance that defines and regulates their respective municipal waters. 

Barili Mayor Garcia also appealed to the PCG to inform the mayors if they have operations involving their constituents. 

“If naay dakop pahibaw-a sad intawn mi. Kay gusto mi makahibaw,” he said. 

Villa said the undertaking signed by Quiñones and others had no bearing since it was not under oath and not prescribed. 

Quiñones expressed his gratitude to the governor for helping out with  their concerns. He said they can now go back to fishing and they committed to follow marine laws. (Mylen Manto)