The Department of Agriculture shall file administrative charges against local officials who do not stop illegal fishing in their area, the secretary said Wednesday.
In a press briefing at Malacanang, Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Duterte administration shall launch a campaign against illegal fishing that is as strict as its war against drugs and criminality
He revealed President Rodrigo Duterte in their last Cabinet meeting announced that mayors and barangay chairmen of towns and villages where illegal fishing is prevalent will 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.
Citing data from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), non-government organization Oceana said more than 50 million Filipinos are dependent on fish for food, and fisheries sector employs almost three million fishers, 70 percent of which are municipal fisherfolks.
It is alarming, they said, that per report by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, 10 out of 13 major fishing grounds surveyed in the Philippines are already overfished.
Oceana lauded the government's initiative to suspend the underperforming local executives, underscoring 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."
MALINIS AT MASAGANANG KARAGATAN
Piñol said there will be a search for the "most outstanding coastal community," who shall be recognized with a presidential award.
Criteria for the award include the absence of illegal fishing, a self-proclaimed closed fishing season to allow the fish to spawn and produce more, a declared marine sanctuary, no garbage in their coastal waters, and a mangrove protection area.
Regional winners have already been selected and the top five candidates shall be revealed on February 1.
The grand winner shall be awarded the "Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan" and P20-million. The second place will be given P8-million, while the third place P5-million.