LAOAG CITY — It was a good day for fishing but almost all motorized fishing boats in Pasuquin town, about 35 kilometers north of this city, were just stationary on the shoreline.
Almost all local fishermen would just say: “All the big fish were gone.” They said this is due to the presence of foreign fishing vessels encroaching the coast of Ilocos Norte province.
Between ten o’clock in the evening to two o’clock in the morning, local fishers said some 50 foreign fishing vessels equipped with “superlight” are always spotted approximately 20 miles from the shores of Pasuquin all the way to Pagudpud, the northernmost town in Ilocos Norte.
Rey Tadeo, a local fisher and village councilor of Barangay Davila in Pasuquin, described that the powerful lights used attract all the fish towards the foreign vessels, leaving almost nothing to them when they go out to sea.
Local fishermen said their catch have been dwindling over time since the presence of these foreign fishing vessels bearing some Chinese-like characters.
Tadeo said they would rather stay home as their catch for the day is not even enough to reimburse their gas expense when they go out fishing.
Near the Davila fishing village is a sub-station of the Philippine Coast Guard. There is also a satellite office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Burayoc, Pagudpud town. But like the local fishers, assigned law enforcement personnel here admitted they are allegedly helpless due to limited resources.
At the PCG Pasuquin sub-station is a five-meter aluminium motor boat while BFAR Pagudpud has a one unit 30-foot fiberglass Bantay Dagat patrol boat.
“Should we have an access to bigger patrol boat then we could go after these illegal poachers,” said Ben Apigo, a law enforcement officer of BFAR based in Pagudpud town.
Despite government intervention programs to uplift the living conditions of coastal communities here, Arthur Valente, Ilocos Norte’s fishery regulatory officer said one of the major threats that affect the livelihood of Ilocos fishermen are these foreign poachers.
Earlier, Ilocos Norte Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa Marcos has appealed to the national government particularly the Philippine Navy to go after and apprehend these foreign fishing vessels.
Under Section 87 of RA 8550 otherwise known as the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, the entry of a foreign fishing vessel in Philippine territorial waters shall constitute a prima facie evidence that the vessel is engaged in fishing in Philippine waters and is punishable by a fine of US 100,000 dollars in addition to the confiscation of its catch, fishing equipment and vessel. LGA/PNA-northboundasia.com