MANILA, Philippines — Authorities have reportedly seized the catch of fishermen who failed to obtain the proper permit, a fisherman revealed Thursday.
Michael An, a fisherman in Zambales, made the revelation during the hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zones.
The revelation angered Senator Francis Tolentino, who also said he had received a petition signed by “more than 70 fishermen” in Zambales complaining about the difficult process of obtaining fishing licenses from the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).
Marina does not have a satellite office in Zambales, which forces fishermen to obtain permits and certificates at their central office in Manila, Tolentino said.
“I can’t go on for the rest of my life. And the demands of the requirements, balik-balik sa Maynila, ubos na ‘yung anim na toneladang tambakol na kinita nila tapos ang demands en dami ang tagal ng proceduralo, ang tagal pa ng pag-release,’ Tolentino, who the special committee leads, said.
(So many fishermen need your help. But we learned that you have so many demands, fishermen go back and forth to Manila, their income from their catch has already run out due to the long process and release.)
“Tapos pag di pa na-release ang certificate huhulihin pa sila. Hindi na sila makakapangisda, gutom ‘yung pamilya, wala tayong isda sa palengke,” he added.
(If their certificate is not released, they will be arrested. Fishermen would be unable to fish, their families would starve, and there would be no fish available in the market.)
“It could be a food security problem. Nag-aangkat pa tayo ng isda… can you allow naman, pinapahirapan ninyo and mga mangingisda na makakuha ng,” he added.
(We have a food security problem. We import fish, and here you are, making the fishermen’s lives harder with the difficult licensing process.)
Tolentino then asked An whether authorities confiscate the catch of unlicensed fishermen.
“Totoo ba na kinukumpiska pa ang mga isda na hinuli niyo?” Tolentino asked.
(Is it true that your catch has been seized?)
“Meron po kaming nabalitaang bangka,” An, one of the eleven fishermen who survived the fatal maritime collision responded in the West Philippine Sea on October 2.
(We have heard of such cases from other boats.)
However, Marina denied the allegations.
“If that allegation specifically relates to Marina, we specifically and categorically deny it. If there is a specific complaint against Marina personnel, please kindly direct us to them and we will investigate and, if necessary, impose the necessary punishment,” Benedicto Manlapaz, officer of the Marina Enforcement Service, told senators.
Manlapaz also noted that marina authorities go on site “very rarely,” unlike those of “regulatory bodies” which he declined to specify.
In the future, Manlapaz promised to work closely with the fishermen.
Tolentino also told Marina to address the “root cause” of the matter, which was the difficulty in obtaining a permit.
“Marina, take note of that and address the root cause of this, which is the inability to get a certificate because you don’t have a field office in Zambales or Subic or in areas where fishermen thrive,” the senator said.