Fisheries stakeholders raise issues about Sorsogon waters

Published Aug 14, 2015


That is the one-word description for the state of Sorsogon waters as seen by the stakeholders themselves during the 1st Provincial Fisheries Summit held on July 29-30, 2015 at the Audio Visual Hall of the Sorsogon State College Sorsogon City Campus.

The province of Sorsogon has a coastline of 553.3 kilometers around 13 municipalities and 1 city, with only the town of Irosin as landlocked. It is bounded by 5 fishing grounds: the Pacific Ocean and Albay Gulf (Pacific Coast) covering the towns of Prieto Diaz, Gubat, Barcelona, Bulusan, Sta. Magdalena, Matnog and part of Bacon District of Sorsogon City; the BuriasPass and Ticao Pass covering the municipalities of Pilar, Donsol, and Bulan; and Sorsogon Bay which includes the municipalities of Casiguran, Juban, Magallanes, and Castilla and the East and West Districts of Sorsogon City.

For purposes of the Summit, these fishing grounds were reduced to three, with the following data:

From the data, it would appear that the Pacific Coast area is more productive and Sorsogon Bay more overfished considering the much bigger number of fisherfolk.

However, matching the total data with the aquaculture area of the fishing grounds, the MASBUTIPA area actually has higher production of 4.651 metric tons per hectare (the Pacific Coast has 282 kg/ha and Sorsogon Bay has 427 kg/ha) and 43.42 MT of capture fisheries catch (Pacific – 3.48 MT/ha; Sorsogon Bay – 4.73 MT/ha.).

In terms of number of fisherfolk/ha. MASBUTIPA has 45, Pacific has 2, Sorsogon Bay has 7.

In the workshop conducted on the 2nd day of the Summit, overall, the fisherfolk of Sorsogon are asking for a comprehensive fishery development plan because of the perceived concern on overfishing and insufficiency / depletion of marine resources.

Specifically, Table 2 shows the following issues and concerns raised.

One of the main issues centered on the boundaries:  there are no clear boundaries or markers, coordinates are erroneous or not registered with the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), which result to the intrusion of commercial fishing vessels or those from other municipalities.

While acknowledging the need for closer coordination with contiguous municipalities, the fisherfolk also state that the Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils (IFARMCs)are inactive; these are supposed to oversee the concerns of municipalities sharing bodies of water.  This was primarily attributed to the absence of a common administrative setup such as budget allocation for the IFARMC (which, according to them, should be shared among the local government units), and a secretariat.

Under Law Enforcement, there appears to be a lack of understanding and information on the policies, no unified ordinance, and non-enforcement of local ordinances.  They also ask that the Amended Fisheries Code (RA 10654) be explained more.

Sorsogon Bay further cited the inactive Sorsogon Bay Management Council / IFARMC.

The SBMC was created in 2008 by then President Gloria M. Arroyo by virtue of Executive Order No. 750 and was supposed to have a P1 million budget but it never came into being.  One reason was the conflict with Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998 which mandates the creation of the IFARMCs for adjoining waters.

LGU enforcement teams have also been said to be inactive due to lack of resources and training including connivance with violators.

There is low fisherfolk community participation due to lack of empowerment.

The BantayDagat teams are inactive and regular patrolling is seldom done because of lack of financial support, supplies, and insurance to the fish wardens; the term of office is co-terminus with the local chief executive hence there is no continuity, and in the case of Pilar, the confiscated fishing gear were actually used by the BantayDagat team themselves.

As regards the rehabilitation and management of marine resources, there are many critical factors.  One of these are the sanctuaries:  while there are 11 Fish Sanctuaries covering 1,646 hectares, but fisherfolk report that these are mismanaged and degraded.  In Bulan, there is intrusion in the sanctuary and there is an illegal establishment of “bunuan” in the sanctuary itself, since there is a lack of deputized BantayDagat there.

Spawning grounds are not protected; while there has been expressed need for open and closed seasons for specific marine resources because these are getting smaller or disappearing, this is not yet in practice.

Coastal and marine resources and mangroves are in poor condition, and in Sorsogon Bay, there is coastal pollution and siltation as well as conversion of mangrove areas to fishponds.

Cited causes of depletion of marine resources are the illegal fishing practices – cyanide, dynamite fishing; use of fine mesh nets and active gears; and destructive gathering methods.

Environmental clearances are not perceived to be existent; there needs to be a clarification of the roles of the DENR and BFAR in relation to abandoned and illegally operating fishponds; and in Sorsogon Bay, the Peter Paul Philippines Corporation’s liquid waste and other sources of pollutants are seen as environmental issues.

In terms of livelihood options, while the Pacific coast group states that there are plenty of funding sources, the MASBUTIPA group cites lack of capital and the Sorsogon Bay group indicates lack of access to postharvest, processing, and lendingfacilities.

For technology, the Pacific group says it is available but the MASBUTIPA group states that there is a lack of fish processing technology.

As far as infrastructure is concerned, the Pacific group says that there is medium level of infrastructure development; the MASBUTIPA groups asks for the establishment of fish landing in Donsol; while Sorsogon Bay wants a common buying station for fishery products.

In reference to market, the Pacific group says it is sufficient and available but the MASBUTIPA group says that it is controlled by local traders who dictate the price yet cannot absorb the production during the peak season.

For fisherfolk registration, full coverage has not yet been done; LGUs do not have a uniform interpretation of who are the women fisherfolk are; and there is a lack of social protection benefit for the fisherfolk.

Due to these varied issues, there is a need to continue the discussions on the level of adjoining municipalities, which is part of the next steps that the fisheries stakeholders will pursue.


Table 2.  Issues and Concerns:

Some 200 fishermen, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils (FARMCs), Agriculture and Fisheries Councils (AFCs), civil society organizations working with fisherfolks (Lingap para saKalusuganngSambayanan or LIKAS, Sorsogon Social Action Foundation Inc., Coastal Core, Integrated Rural Development Foundation. AlyansakanParasirasa Sorsogon or ALPAS), and government agencies – the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Committees on Agriculture and Fisheries and Environment and Natural Resources of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, its Fisheries Section, the local government units through its  Municipal / City Agriculture Offices, Provincial / Municipal / City Environment and Natural Resources Offices, the Department of Environment and Natural Resouces, the Philippine National Police, the Provincial Health Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, attended the 2-day Summit.

The Fisheries Summit – that the fisherfolk would like to institutionalize as a continuing venue for the monitoring and evaluation of the provincial fisheries concerns – was realized due to the following persons / entities:  the Provincial Government through Governor Raul R. Lee and Provincial Administrator Robert ‘Bobet’ A. Lee Rodrigueza, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist through Officer-in-Charge Provincial Agriculturist Dr. Ma. Teresa V. Destura and Fisheries Section Head Robert D. Fortes, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Regional Director Dennis V. del Socorro and Provincial Fisheries Officer Gil B. Ramos.

The mayors of the local government units likewise supported the Summit by sending their Municipal / City Agriculture Officers and staff, Municipal / City Environment and Natural Resources Officers, Municipal / City FARMCs, Municipal / City AFCs and people’s organizations on fisheries.

The Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries of the SangguniangPanlalawiganof Sorsogonheaded by Board MemberArze G. Glipo promised that the Committee will strongly push through the legislative concerns identified during the Fisheries Summit and will initiate the meeting of theOPAg-Fisheries and BFAR to identify roles and responsibilities to pursue the solutions to address these issues. # – 

Alice Lopez, Communications Specialist