Rep. Pacquiao to bring Sarangani tuna dumping case to Congress

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/1 Dec) – Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao plans to bring before the House of Representatives the uncovered dumping last weekend by alleged commercial fishing boats of tons of dead tuna along the Sarangani Bay.

Pacquiao, who presided over an emergency meeting with officials of Maasim town in Sarangani province, told reporters he will specifically present before the House’s Committee on Fisheries the results of an ongoing investigation on the incident that is being conducted by the local governments of Maasim and Sarangani.

“This is a serious matter and might eventually affect our fishery resources if it continues unabated,” said Pacquiao, who is vice chair of the fisheries committee.

During the meeting, the official said he intends to set some legislative measures to help end the problem.

He directed the municipal government of Maasim led by Mayor Jose Zamorro and officials of the town’s coastal barangays to intensify their coastal monitoring or Bantay Dagat operations.

Rolando Tuballes, chief of the Sarangani Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, earlier said the dead fishes were initially discovered floating starting Monday in the waters off three coastal villages of Maasim town, polluting a significant portion of its municipal waters.

He said the dumped tuna were initially seen drifting near the shores of Barangay Kanalo and were later swept to nearby Barangays Pananag and Lumatil.

The dead fishes, which emitted foul smell, have been buried along the shore using a backhoe with the help of the residents, he said.

Tuballes said their initial investigation showed that the fishes were caught using the likom method or net fishing, which are mainly used by small commercial fishing boats.

Sani Macabalang, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-Region 12 director, said Wednesday their assessment showed that the incident was triggered by the sudden increase of skipjack tuna stocks along the Sarangani Bay last week.

He said the fishes, which weight eight to nine kilos each, were drawn to the area due to the presence of smaller fishes that they consume.

The official said four likom fishing boats, which he did not identify, took advantage of the situation on Thursday last week and were able to catch around 16 tons of skipjack tuna.

But since the fishing boats had a combined capacity of only eight tons, he said the fishing operators were forced to dump around eight tons of their catch into the sea.

The following day, Macabalang said four more likom fishing boats were able to catch a combined 20 tons of tuna but were also forced to dump half of them into the sea by making a hole on their fish nets.

The dead fishes eventually surfaced last Monday or two days after they were dumped by the fishing boats, he said.

“We are discounting any fish kill here. The dumped fishes were wastes that the fishing boats and operators can’t handle. Because of the big volume of their catch, they were forced to dump some of the fishes to save their nets and boats from possible destruction due to overloading,” Macabalang said.

The official clarified that the fishing boats did not violate the country’s fishery laws, specifically Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code, as a result of the incident.

He cited that while the Fisheries Code prohibits commercial fishing operations within the 15-kilometer municipal waters, it does not cover commercial fishing boats that were hunting or following moving fish stocks within these areas. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)