Gov. Ebdane tells fishers to organize, avail of govt assistance

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SAN FELIPE, Zambales — Hearing of complaints about dwindling fish catch in municipal waters along the Zambales coast, Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. urged small fishermen in the province to form cooperatives and avail of funds from the provincial government to develop sustainable fishing methods.

“Don’t go back to marginal fishing—that would get you nowhere. You organize yourselves and form cooperatives, so that we can help you develop better ways of fishing and making a living,” Ebdane said.

He said the provincial government of Zambales would extend help to organized fisherfolk by as much as P10 million per group for boats and equipment needed in payao fishing, which makes use of fish aggregating devices installed way off the coastline.

“We should adapt to the realities of the times,” Ebdane said. “As far as fishing in Zambales is concerned, payao is the way to go, and a growing number of local fishermen are proving that this is so,” he added.

Ebdane met with fishermen belonging to the Laoag Integrated Fisherfolks Association (LIFA) at Barangay Maloma here last Friday to discuss concerns about a dredging project that some locals claimed has “scared away” fishes from traditional fishing grounds here.

The project is part of the government’s river rehabilitation program that aims to decongest major waterways heavily silted with debris from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in in 1991. As much as 10 billion cubic meters of sand was ejected by the volcano and dredging operations since last year have only cleared away from 50 to 60 million cubic meters off the Zambales side, Ebdane said.

San Felipe Dialogue4
San Felipe Dialogue3

In the dialogue, LIFA president Renan Gilig asked Gov. Ebdane, as well as Senator Jinggoy Estrada who arrived later at the seaside community, to “revisit” Department Administrative Order No. 13 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and look into provisions for environmental protection. 

DAO No. 13 rationalized dredging activities in the heavily silted river channels of Bucao in Botolan, Maloma in San Felipe, and Sto. Tomas traversing the towns of San Marcelino, San Narciso and San Felipe.

The day before the dialogue, however, Ebdane suspended dredging operations to assess the situation at Sitio Laoag where shoreline erosion was reported.

“I have stopped dredging operations because of these concerns, and we will continue to dialogue with concerned residents to determine what’s best for the community,” he said.

At the same time, he pointed out that the report of one Haidee Fernandez, reportedly an official of the Zambales Environmental Network, that 300 houses in Botolan town have been washed out because of dredging “is patently false and malicious.”

“This never happened in my time (as governor). The only time that something catastrophic as that occurred was in 2008 under then Gov. (Amor) Deloso and Mayor (Rogelio) Yap, when floodwaters washed out houses in Botolan during a strong typhoon. Nothing even close to this happened in Botolan under my watch,” he said.

The governor also told the fisherfolk that dwindling fish catch could be directly attributed to Pinatubo debris that has carpeted the sea floor over the years and smothered plant life and plankton that serve as food for fishes. Fishery officials have also noted that overfishing, as well as illegal means of fishing, has decreased fish production in municipal waters.

“Dredging is not the problem here,” Ebdane told the residents. “To the contrary, it is precisely being done to control flooding, protect our communities, restore the pristine state of waterways and sustain the livelihood of the people,” he added. – Taktikom News & Features

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