MANILA - The Commission on Audit has flagged the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for the use of 5 patrol boats, acquired through partial funding from the United States, for tourism activities and not for law enforcement.
In the 2017 report on the BFAR, government auditors noted that out of 43 vessels acquired under Public Law 480 or the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of the US, five are being used by local government units (LGUs) for tourism purposes.
The audit report said that the Memorandum of Agreement on the acquisition of the vessels provided that the LGU “shall ensure that the PL 480 patrol boats are used exclusively for fishery law enforcement and coastal resources management related activities except during times of natural calamities and/or national or local emergencies.”
“Five LGUs had used the PL 480 patrol boats in tourism activities, contrary to the provisions of the MOA,” the COA said.
The report did not specify which LGUs used the patrol boats for tourism-related activities but the 43 boats were distributed to the provinces of Aurora, Batangas, Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao Del Norte, Davao Del Sur and Sarangani.
The boats, amounting to P86 million, were procured from 2009 to 2011 and were issued to various LGUs.
The COA also noted the poor monitoring of the boats with reports submitted by the Fisheries Resources Management Division showing that 12 of the 43 boats were unserviceable.
“BFAR CO (Central Office) management commented that monitoring of the PL 480 patrol boats were not conducted in CY (Calendar Year) 2017 since no budget was allocated for the monitoring and lack of personnel to do the monitoring works,” the COA said.
The report noted however that the BFAR management agreed to the recommendations such as the periodic monitoring of the boats by requiring LGUs to submit reports.
The five LGUs will also use the patrol boats “exclusively for fishery law enforcement and coastal resource management related activities.”
Government auditors also flagged the inadequate budget for the maintenance of 14 fisheries management patrol vessels used for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS).
The vessels were acquired through loans from Spanish institutions Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and Instituto de Credito Oficial amounting to P991 million.
Seven out of the 14 MCS vessels were reported as “ready for sea” operations but their auxiliary machineries, navigational and communications equipment were non-operational, putting the crew of the vessels at risk.
“Government funds will be put to waste for the payment of the loans on the acquisition of the said vessels if BFAR cannot provide adequate budget for its maintenance,” the COA said.
The COA noted that BFAR management agreed to recommendations such as providing adequate budget for the repair of the auxiliary machinery, navigational and communications equipment to maintain the seaworthiness of the vessels.
Government auditors also included in the report the delayed procurement and distribution of fishing gear and paraphernalia amounting to P26.398 million, depriving various fishermen and the public of the benefits that can be derived from the program.
Among the items noted were gillnets, hook and lines, squid jigger, life vests and non-motorized bancas.
The COA said the BFAR management agreed to expedite the procurement process and the subsequent distribution of the items for the benefit of fisherfolk.
The 2017 audit report on BFAR can be dowloaded from the COA website.