THE Philippines government said it will launch clampdown on illegal fishing in a campaign that is as severe as President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and criminality.
Department of Agriculture Secretary, Emmanuel Piñol, was quoted by ABS-CBN News as saying that administrative charges will be slapped against local officials who failed to stop illegal fishing in their area.
He said during the last cabinet meeting, Duterte had called on mayors and barangay (district) towns and villages where illegal fishing was prevalent to be identified.
“We’re giving them six months, until June. After that, the Department of Agriculture will file administrative charges against all mayors and barangay chairmen who could not stop illegal fishing in their communities,” he said, as quoted by ABS-CBN.
More than 50 million Filipinos are dependent on fish as a source of food, while the fisheries sector employs nearly three million people – of which 70 are municipal fisherfolks, according to non-government Oceana who cited data from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Alarming figures released by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Oceana said, showed that 10 out of 13 major fishing grounds surveyed in the country are already over fished.
Lauding the government for its effort to charge local officials who failed to perform their duties, Oceana told ABS-CBN that: “irresponsible fishing has reduced many wild fish populations to historically low levels right at the moment when the world needs its oceans more than ever.”
To compare the approach to that used in the ongoing war on drugs shows how seriously the government is taking the issue of illegal fishing.
Since Duterte entered office in June, more than 6,000 people have been killed in his war on drugs, almost half of which died at the hands of police while the others were murdered by vigilante groups.
Last month, threats were also extended to corrupt officials who he claimed would suffer the same fate as drug suspects and hardened criminals.
Along with the threat of punishment for failing to curb illegal fishing, Piñol also said that success will be rewarded with the government planning to present the “most outstanding coastal community” with a presidential award.
The winning community will be selected based on several criteria, including the total eradication of illegal fishing, sustainable fishing seasons, declaring marine sanctuaries, and coastal waters clear of garbage, among others.
He said the top five candidates would be revealed on Feb 1, adding the grand winner stood to win PHP20 million (US$401,646), while second place will receive PHP8 million (US$160,530), and another PHP5 million (US$100,411) will be given for third place.