By RHAYDZ B. BARCIA
LEGAZPI CITY: Two years ago, President Benigno Aquino III gave the Maritime Police and the Philippine Coast Guard in Bicol an order to intensify their operation against big time illegal fishing activities in the region.
The president's marching order was made during the launching of Albay Climate Change Academy in 2011 following complaints from nine bishops in Bicol who wrote a letter of appeal to the president asking his intervention to put a stop to the massive illegal fishing activities in the two major fishing grounds in the western seaboard of Bicol, such as Ragay Gulf and Burias Pass.
The letter of appeal was signed by then Caceres Archbishops Leonardo Legaspi, Bishop Joey "Bong" Z. Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi, Bishop Emeritus of Legazpi Jose C Sorra, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Legazpi Lucilo B. Quiambao, Bishop Jose Rojas Jr of the Diocese of Libmanan, Bishop Arturo M Bastes of the Diocese of Sorsogon, Bishop Gilbert A Garcera of the Diocese of Daet, Bishop Manolo A De Los Santos of the Diocese of Virac, and Bishop Jose Bantolo of the Diocese of Masbate.
The bishops condemned the local authorities, as well as law enforcers in Bicol for their ineptness to stop the massive illegal commercial fishing taking place under their very noses in the western seaboard of the Bicol peninsula.
In response to the prelates' letter of appeal, Aquino directed the PCG and Maritime Police to strengthen the campaign against bigtime illegal fishing activities here.
Msgr Angel Dy, head of the Sorsogon Social Action Foundation, Inc. in a press conference said that the illegal commercial fishing in Bicol specifically in Burias-Ticao Pass halted for at least six months after the President's issuance of directive but after the few months lull, illegal fishing operators were at it again.
"The illegal fishing operation in Ticao-Burais Pass areas stopped for just six months after the marching order of President Aquino but after that illegal fishing operations resurged and even worsened," Dy lamented.
The law that prohibits commercial fishing within 15km of municipal waters have been disregarded by commercial fishers who are known to have connection with high ranking officials of the government, according to church officials here. – Bicol Mail