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Fisherfolk association up in arms vs seasonal control on reef-fish-for-food in Palawan

By Keith Anthony S. Fabro

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 20 (PNA) — Over 50 members of a live-reef-food-fish trade association in the province sought to have an audience with Governor Jose Alvarez Monday to relate their opposition against the new seasonal control policy being imposed on them now by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) that he chairs.

On Monday, the members of the United Fisherfolk of Puerto Princesa and Palawan (UFPPP) went to the Provincial Capitol to submit their petition letter to Alvarez, asking him to end the implementation of the PCSD “open-close season” policy on highly valuable live-reef-food-fish (LRFF) that are now dwindling in stocks in Palawan sea.

The PCSD is “a unique body that carries powerful responsibility on the environment in Palawan in terms of policy-making and implementation. It is multi-sectoral; it is an inter-disciplinary body, which under the law is charged with the governance, implementation and policy direction of Republic Act 7611, or the Strategic Environment Plan (SEP) for Palawan.”

"Para sa ating mahal at respetadong Gobernador, at PCSD Chairman Jose Ch. Alvarez, at sa lahat ng kasapi ng konseho, kami po ay masigasig na humihiling sa pamamagitan ng sama-samang pagkilos na ito, at mahigpit na pagtutol sabatas ng PCSD Administrative Order No. 05 s. 2014 na unti-unti pong pumapatay sa aming mga kabuhayan at hanapbuhay, na itigil na po ang pagpapatupad nito sa lalong madaling panahon(To our beloved and respected Governor and PCSD Chairman Jose Ch. Alvarez, and all the members of the Council, together we steadfastly denounce and compel you to stop the soonest possible time the implementation of PCSD Administrative Order No. 05, Series of 2014 that is slowly killing our livelihood)," the UFPPP petition letter read.

Since its ratification in October 2014, the policy entitled "Guidelines for the Regulation and Monitoring of Catching, Culture, Trade, Transport and Export of Reef-Fish-For-Food in Palawan" has since met oppositions.

Just last January, another group, the Palawan Live Fish Trader’s Association (PLFTA) decried the policy, all for the reason of imposing the seasonal control they deemed hampering their livelihood.

"Ito po ang pinakahigit na kinatatakutan ng lahat ng ating mga kasapi ng maliliit na mangingisda. Ano at paano kami mabubuhay? Mga katagang hindi kayang sagutin… Anong alternatibong kabuhayan ang nakalaan sa aming mga marginal fisherfolk? (This is the foremost provision fisherfolk members fear. What and how could we live? A question that couldn't be provided with answers. What alternative livelihood lies waiting for us marginal fisherfolk?) " asked the UFPPP.

Open season will be from January 1 to June 15, and September 1 to October 15. The close season, on the other hand, is from June 16 to August 31, and October 16 to December 15.

It was imposed for the catching and trading of the leopard coral trout (Plectropumus leopardus), or red grouper and suno; estuary or green grouper (Epinephelus coioides), or loba; and tiger brown-marbled grouper (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus), or lapung baboy.

The UFPPP is dismayed that it was imposed without passing sufficient public consultation.

"Its general provisions, reportorial requirements and penalties were hastened, and no public hearing was conducted in Puerto Princesa and every municipalities of Palawan," it said.

The group also slammed the "size restriction," stating that the "RFFF (or LRFF) that maybe caught from the wild shall be 32 centimeters or more but not exceeding 47.5 cm.”

"Sana po ay napag-aralan muna ito ng mabuti, at unti-unti upang maging maayos at katanggap-tanggap sa mga Palaweñong mangingisda (We hope this was thoroughly studied so that, inch-by-inch, we Palaweño fishermen could at least accept it)," they suggested.

UFPPP Chair Sabino Camacho, meanwhile, told the Philippines News Agency (PNA) Wednesday that the policy's permitting system is problematic and burdens small-earner fisherfolk.

"[Tinututulan namin] pagkakakansela ng Live Fish Accreditation patungo sa WSUP o Wildlife Special Use Permit (Trading), Wildlife Collectors Permit (Catching / Collecting), Wildlife Farm Permit (Culture), LTP o Local Transport Permit (Transport) kung saan ang WSUP holder ay magbabayad ng P20.00/ head sa RFFF at lobster, P10.00/ head sa Ornamental fish at fresh fish at dagdag na P200.00 inspection fee, at ang P10.00 legal certification bago makapag-shipment (We disagree with the cancellation of Live Fish Accreditation which was replace by WSUP or Wildlife Special Use Permit (Trading), Wildlife Collectors Permit (Catching / Collecting), Wildlife Farm Permit (Culture), LTP or Local Transport Permit (Transport), on which WSUP holder has to pay P20.00/ head for RFFF and lobster; P10.00/ head for ornamental and fresh fish and additional for P200.00 inspection fee; and another P10.00 for legal certification as a requirement before the shipment) ," Camacho explained.

With the speedy decline in fish catch, particularly of RFFF, due to the destruction of breeding grounds, the stakeholders and the PCSD technical working group convened and agreed to regulate the industry instead of banning it.

The policy still hangs in the balance with PCSD yet to tackle it "for amendment or suspension" due to lack of quorum in its previous meeting, but it will be included in the agenda of next council meeting on May 28, according to PCSD Staff Spokesperson Alex Marcaida in a text message.

Camacho said they were advised to attend the council meeting to personally register their plea over the contentious policy. (PNA)

LAP/RCK/KASF/EDS

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