7 more illegal fishermen yield in Surigao Norte

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Aug) – Seven more fishermen allegedly engaged in illegal fishing in Claver town in Surigao del Norte have been added to the list of surrenderees as the town launched “Oplan Panagat” in coastal villages.

Chief Insp. Rommel Cacayan told MindaNews by mobile phone Thursday afternoon that the latest batch come from the village of Cagdianao of this mineral-rich town.

Last week at least 15 illegal fishermen, mostly from the island village of Lapinigan, turned themselves in after the police conducted an ala “Oplan TokHang” campaign, which is the police’s drive against drug personalities.

“Their methods of fishing are illegal and unsustainable. These must be stopped. If not, at least minimized,” he said. Most of these fishermen, the police official said, engage in dynamite fishing and catching marine life using cyanide.

He admitted that the town has no PNP-Maritime unit, in charge of guarding the seas.

The police official said Claver Mayor Eddie Gokiangkee is glad on the police effort to guard the seas, saying the local government unit of Claver is willing to facilitate finding jobs for the fishermen.

“Aside from the LGU, we are also trying to negotiate with the mining companies in this town to hire the fishermen so they won’t go back to their illegal activities,” he said.

When the news of the first 15 surrenderees broke out in MindaNews Wednesday, several marine environment advocates lauded the efforts of the police in Claver.

Vince Cinches, oceans campaigner of Greenpeace in the Philippines, was happy to hear of the development. “We have been calling the current administration to treat illegal fishing similar to drugs,” he told MindaNews via Facebook.

“We are here to request for a dialogue and to remind President Duterte of his campaign promise to address fishers’ and marine issues, and to end very high poverty incidence among people directly relying on seas for food and for a living. His administration will play a critical role in the country’s transition to sustainable fishing. We expect nothing less than strong, resolute implementation of the amended fisheries law against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF). Doing less is a disservice to millions of Filipinos who have been clamoring for change,” Cinches said.

Quoting data from the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2014, he said the poverty incidence among fisherfolk reached 39.2 percent in 2012, the highest among the basic sectors of society, followed by farmers at 38.3 percent, and children at 35.2 percent.

“Coherent and holistic programs should especially be quickly put in place that recognize our vulnerability to climate change. We need focused and sustained efforts in combatting crimes against the oceans and to allow a better playing field for our small fishers and fishing communities. We strongly urge the [Duterte] administration to target an end to illegal fishing within their first six months of office,” said Dennis Calvan, executive director of the NGOs for Fisheries Reform in a statement.

Marathon swimmer and lawyer Ingemar “Pinoy Aquaman” Macarine, who swam the Hinatuan Passage in 2015, said that it is high time to address the problem of illegal fishing.

“Aside from illegal fishing activities, there’s an immediate need to address the siltation problem wrought by operation of mining companies along the coastal areas of this town,” Macarine said in a Facebook interview with this reporter.

“I’m very much happy on the police effort to combat illegal fishing activities in the area. I wish more surrenderees and apprehensions if fishermen who are engaging in illegal methods would not stop operating in the area,” he said, adding that he hopes to replicate this effort to other coastal towns in the country.

Macarine is set to cross the 33.8-kilometer English Channel, from the United Kingdom to France, this mid-August. He has swum other long and challenging courses before as part of his lifetime advocacy for clean seas, environmental tourism, and climate change awareness. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)