ONCE BARRED FROM SCARBOROUGH
    Zambales fishermen now doubly blessed

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    CLARK FREEPORT – Their having been barred by the Chinese from fishing at the Scarborough Shoal had deprived them of fish harvests for years, but fisherlfolk in Masinloc, Zambales are now doubly blessed.

    Not only could they fish freely at the bountiful shoal since last week, at least 200 of them now have 30-foot long motorized fiberglass boats for fishing, courtesy of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

    Nelson Bien, chief of the BFAR’s regulatory and law enforcement division in Central Luzon, said the boats were turned over to Masinloc’s fisherfolk during the period they were being prevented by Chinese patrol boats from fishing at Scarborough starting in 2012.

    The boats were part of government efforts to help them because of being displaced by the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over the shoal. The fiberglass boats were much bigger than the boats owned by the fisherfolk, so as to enable them to accommodate more fish catch even outside the fish-rich shoal.

    “On top of the fiberglass boats, the fishermen were also given fishing nets, solar lamps, and life jackets. We also distributed to them propagules of seaweeds for new livelihood,” Bien added, noting significant foreign market for seaweeds.

    Dynamite fishing

    With problems at the Scarborough laid to the backburner, Bien said the BFAR is zeroing in on other concerns at the West Philippine Sea, particularly the persistence of dynamite fishing.

    He said BFAR has formed a task force composed of various government law enforcement agencies to run after suppliers of items used for dynamite fishing.

    At least two suppliers of “blasting caps” are expected to be arrested immediately after charges against them have been formalized, said Bien, as he declined to name the suspects pending their arrest.

    Bien said the newly created task force is composed of representatives from the National Bureau of Investigation, the National Intelligence Coordinating Authority, the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard. The BFAR heads the task force.

    “We have met and come out with the decision to get into the root of the dynamite fishing problem by cutting off the fishermen’s supply of materials for dynamite,” he said.

    He explained that fishermen themselves assemble the dynamites using a detonation cord, a blasting cap, a bottle and potassium which is normally used as fertilizer.

    “The blasting cap cannot be readily made by the fishermen. In our country, only those in the mining industry are allowed to import them,” he noted.

    Bien said that despite efforts of the BFAR to curb dynamite fishing, the illegal practice has remained prevalent in the seas off Bataan and Zambales in Central Luzon. He said the practice endangers the lives for the fishermen and destroys the environment.

    “We expect more arrests of suppliers of dynamite parts in the coming months,” he stressed.

    At the same time, Bien also said the BFAR is also clamping down on firms handling cyanide which also land in the hands of fisherfolk for so called cyanide fishing.

    “These fishers lace corals with cyanide and fishes which abound in the corals eventually fl oat to be gathered and sold in markets to the detriment of the health of consumers,” he noted.

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