Prostitution, political protection lure illegal fishers to Placer

PLACER, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/28 September) — Several boats used in the illegal fishing method called liba-liba have made this booming town of Surigao del Norte their unwilling host due to the existence of a huge ice plant, the drawing power of the local flesh trade and, an official disclosed, the protection offered by some local politicians.

Placer Mayor Felimon Napuli Jr. said the liba-liba boats were not from the town itself but from the Visayan provinces of Bohol, Leyte, Negros and Samar.

They came to town in droves due to the huge ice plant from where they could get a continuous supply of ice which they use in preserving their catch for several days before selling the same to interested buyers, the mayor added.

He disclosed that liba-liba fishers like to dock their boats in Placer because they found the municipal port easily accessible, convenient and ideal for rest and recreation.

He admitted that prostitution too had enticed the illegal fishers to this town.

Asked by reporters why local authorities could not stop the illegal fishing activity, Martiniano Yandra, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources regional director, said that liba-liba fishers enjoy the protection of some local politicians.

He lamented that suspects who get caught easily get away because some politicians would intervene.

“Unsaon man nga dupahan man dayon sa mga politiko kung duna nay madakpan (We’re helpless because politicians would readily come to the rescue every time a suspect is arrested),” he said.

“I don’t say it categorically, but, based on the information we gathered, there were some politicians who intervened,” he said.

He claimed that law enforcers have gotten tired of running after the illegal fishers.

Yandra divulged this information during the recent “Kapihan sa Kapitolyo” held in Gigaquit town.

The mayors of seven coastal towns of Surigao del Norte recently created an alliance called the Hinatuan Passage Development Alliance (Hipada) where they made a joint commitment to put a stop to illegal fishing activities in their areas of jurisdiction.

Gigaquit Mayor Carlos Arturo Egay Sr. said their group would codify the fishing ordinances in all municipalities covered by Hipada.

“We must unite as one in putting a stop to these illegal fishing activities,” Egay stressed.

He added that although they are enforcing the fishery law, the same is toothless due to lack of law enforcers such as the maritime police.

He said they will explore other options that would make up for the lack of law enforcers.

The presence of liba-liba fishing boats in the port of Placer is considered a big threat to the marine resources of Surigao del Norte.

Internationally known as “Danish Seine”, liba-liba is a form of fishing that destroys coral reefs. It uses a set of fishing gear consisting of a conical net with a pair of wings the end of which are connected to a rope embedded with buri, plastic strips, sinkers or similar materials to serve as herding device and hauled through a mechanical winch or by manpower. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)