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Interagency body vows stronger protection for Tanon Strait.

THE Coastal Law Enforcement Alliance in Region 7 (CLEAR 7) recently agreed to set up a multiagency, multisectoral task force to develop and implement an operational plan to minimize and eventually eradicate illegal fishing in Tanon Strait by the end of the year.

CLEAR 7 is an interagency body established in 2000 to pursue a coordinated coastal law-enforcement strategy in Central Visayas,

The strait is a body of water separating the islands of Negros and Cebu. It is about 161-kilometer long and connects the Visayan Sea in the north to the Bohol Sea in the south.

Threatened by destructive commercial fishing, Tanon Strait is an important fishing ground in Western Visayas. Commercial fishing activities within Tanon Strait are prohibited for being part of the Tanon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) established by Proclamation 1234 signed by then-President Fidel V. Ramos in 1998.

Roughly 28,000 artisanal fishermen and their families depend on the bounty of Tanon Strait.

In a statement released through ocean-conservation advocacy nongovernmental organization Oceana Philippines, CLEAR 7 said it has agreed to appoint permanent representatives to various committees, namely, policy, monitoring, control and surveillance, and capacity-building.

Policy committee members will develop and review interagency enforcement protocols, develop and implement an awards and recognition system, and document best practices.

The Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Committee members will coordinate field-enforcement operations, including maintaining oversight over criminal prosecutions.

The Capacity-Building Committee members will develop and implement training sessions, seminars, conferences and meetings.

'This ensures cross-cutting capacity to deal with various challenges as members come from a wide range of disciplines. An enforcement plan under a recently published General Management Plan for the Tanon Strait gives enforcers guidelines for operations,' the statement said.

In the same statement, Lt. Carlo Madrid, chief of Naval Civil Military Operations, said: 'Illegal fishing is complex. It can only be addressed if all stakeholders work together. We have deployed gunboats and will support any enforcement agencies, including our Bantay Dagat units within the strait.'

'We welcome the collaboration of all agencies in enforcing marine environmental laws. We will field personnel to ensure success,' Police Regional Office 7 Senior Supt. Julian Entoma said for his part.

Through the collaboration of various stakeholders, there was a noted drop in illegal-fishing activities in the area.

'Communities are reporting an increase in fish catch in the last quarter. While not yet established scientifically, fishers attribute the increase to better enforcement,' Rizaller Amolo of Rare Philippines said.

The TSPS ratified a resolution last year requiring all commercial-scale fishing vessels that pass by Tanon Strait to install a functional and approved vessel monitoring mechanism (VMM).

This is to ensure that all commercial-scale fishing vessels that transit, anchor, berth and dock in the strait will not be tempted to fish within the protected area.

The installation of a VMM is mandated by the Amended Fisheries Code and other pertinent

regulations.

CLEAR 7 members fully support the management body in its initiative to institute vessel-monitoring requirement within the strait.

During the meeting, it was agreed that police units will also help disseminate information through local police stations, offices and support units found within the strait about the requirement for vessel monitoring and other environmental laws within the country's biggest marine-protected area.

'The commitment of other coastal law-enforcement agencies in region 7 articulated in the presently passed resolutions will boost the morale of our Protected Area Office in implementing fisheries and other environmental laws to protect one of the biggest protected seascapes in the country. We welcome the translation of these laws into action through multiagency collaboration to win back the ecological integrity of this special seascape,' Tanon Strait Park Supt. Prospero Lendio said.

Oceana Philippines Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said these three resolutions approved by CLEAR 7 give law-enforcement agencies and artisanal fishermen a much-needed boost in fighting illegal-fishing activities.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Mar 21, 2018
Words:716
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