Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Reforms chief hit over warning to fishers

ANAKPAWIS party-list Rep. Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao has slammed the warning of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Reforms (BFAR) Director Eduardo Gongona to Filipino fishermen to avoid Panatag Shoal as it is occupied by Chinese vessels.

“Gongona just slapped his own face with his statement. Aside from obviously a surrenderee on the claim of our country’s waters, he is outrightly violating the mandate of his own office,” said Casilao.

BFAR as created by Presidential Decree (PD) No. 461 and reconstituted by Republic Act 8550 Fisheries Code of 1998 is mandated to enforce all laws, formulate and enforce all rules and regulations governing the conservation and management of fishery resources. The Fisheries Code covers “all Philippine waters including other waters over which the Philippines has sovereignty and jurisdiction, and the country’s 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.” Its policies as objectives also include “conservation, protection and sustained management of the country’s fishery and aquatic resources;” and “poverty alleviation and the provision of supplementary livelihood among municipal fisherfolk.”

“Gongona just blabbered about not to execute Philippine laws in Panatag Shoal. Ang higpit nila sa mga Pilipinong mangingisda sa pagpapatupad ng Fisheries Code, pero sa dayuhang Chinese, inutil sila,” the lawmaker said.

He added the BFAR’s current leadership also abandoned its office’s earlier claim in 2015 that Chinese reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea caused the P4.8 billion economic loss for the country. Former BFAR Director Asis Perez said that the West Philippine Sea accounts for 26% of the country’s fishing grounds.

Around 12,200 fishermen from Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, and Palawan are known to fish there.

“So we dare Director Gongona to execute his mandate on Panatag Shoal, check on the permits of those Chinese vessels, hindi na nga niya ginagawa ang trabaho niya, pipigilan pa niyang maglayag ang ating mga mangingisda, na sila na nga lang ang nagtatanggol ng teritoryo natin sa West Philippine Sea, dahil nga walang silbi ang Armed Forces of the Philippines kontra pananakop ng China,” said Casilao.