On close fishing season issue: Celso proposes transition period PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 27 August 2011 17:16

Mayor Celso Lobregat yesterday recommended a transition period in the imposition of the close fishing season set from November to March pending validating of data through joint studies by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the fishing and canning industries.

The mayor’s recommendation, which was fully supported and applauded by both the canning and fishing industries in the city, is expected to diffuse the squabble over the period of the close season for commercial fishing which threatens to affect the operation of the sardine industry in Zamboanga.

As this developed, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Atty. Asis Perez expressed support to the recommendation and vowed to strongly endorse it to the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC) and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for approval.

Perez said a technical working committee, composed of both the BFAR and the concerned sectors and other stakeholders for the conduct of the joint study to validate previous researches made on the close fishing season.

Mayor Lobregat submitted his significant proposal during a dialogue between BFAR officials and representatives from the concerned stakeholders held at the behest of the chief executive at the Garden Orchid Hotel yesterday morning.

In its proposed order, the BFAR should provide a transitory provision that will indicate that the closing season this year will start in December and that joint studies will be held to validate data, the mayor said adding that whatever will be the result of the joint studies, the canning and the fishing industries will be compelled to follow starting next year.

The controversy stemmed from a pending BFAR directive imposing the close season for commercial fishing from November to February effective this year.  The canning and fishing sectors strongly oppose the move saying they were not consulted on the matter and that the imposition will bring about implications including mass layoffs and increase in prices of canned sardines. They claimed they voluntarily shut down operations from December to March every year to pave the way for the spawning of fish resources.  The BFAR on the other hand insists on its position citing scientific and empirical data culled through a 2-year research study.

Last week, amid the strain between the two parties, the mayor sought to diffuse the tension and suggested that a dialogue be held to discuss solutions to the problem. Per request of Mayor Lobregat, Dir. Perez came to the city yesterday to preside over the dialogue with the stakeholders where the win-win solution was arrived at. The dialogue was held as a handful of placard-bearing factory workers staged a picket outside the hotel expressing opposition to the BFAR supposed

During the dialogue, BFAR presented the results of a research conducted on the close fishing season. Dir. Perez said he will not succumb to pressure but will listen to reason and validated data.

Former Industrial Group (IGZI) president Edgar Lim lamented that the concerned sector should have been informed about the study so that the data can be validated. He said while the BFAR relies on research studies that involve only few samplings, the Sardine industry relies on actual experiences involving tons and tons of fish for the past over 20 years.

After dialogue, Engr. George Ledesma, incumbent IGZI president, expressed satisfaction over the results of the forum stressing that the transition period has to happen as there has to be a validation of the study.  “If the study would say that we will have to start the closing period by November then we will abide by it”.

Perez in an interview with reporters described Mayor Lobregat’s recommendation as a “well thought of” proposal and is based on science and logic. “I find it very difficult not to support that proposal to have a transitory provision in relation to the implementation of the close fishing season this year”.

Nevertheless, he said he cannot give any commitment with regards to the recommendation but stressed that he will strongly endorse it to the DA Secretary and the NFARMC.

On the other hand, Councilor Rey Candido, chairman of the Council committee on agriculture said he will sponsor a resolution during the Council session next week supporting and formalizing the mayor’s recommendation.

Others present during the dialogue yesterday were Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde, some members of the City Council, BFAR-9 director Ahadullah Sajili, representatives from the IGZI and the Southern Philippines Deep Sea Fishing (SOPHIL), labor sector and other stakeholders. — Sheila Covarrubias