ILOILO – The people of the provinces surrounding the Visayan Sea triangle are seeking for the declaration of Visayan Sea as a National Marine Reserve of the Philippines during the 7th Visayan Sea Summit held recently (June 5) at the School of the Sea in Barangay Ocoy, Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu.
Endorsed by world-renowned environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa, the resolution is expecting the support of the Congress and President Benigno Aquino III, who will be here for the 117th Philippine Independence Day celebration in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo.
The resolution has so far gained a hundred signatures among which were Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., Iloilo Provincial Agriculturist Ildefonso Toledo representing Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., and Cebu Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Chad Estella representing Gov. Hilario Davide III.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director Asis Perez, represented by Administrative Services Assistant Director Benjamin Tabios Jr., and Central Visayas Regional Director Andres Bojos also signified their support.
Once realized, the Visayan Sea, with coordinates 11º to 12º N to 123º to 124º E and estimated area of 10,000 km2, will only be made available to small, marginal or subsistence fishermen, while there will be restrictions for commercial fishing.
“We are against commercial fishing (which gears use tom weighs and such method/accessories that destroy coral reefs, seagrass beds and other fishery marine habitats) to the prejudice of the Filipino people (both present and future generations)…,” part of the resolution reads.
Oposa explained that the declaration is a must knowing that the marine resources of the Visayan Sea in particular are in brink of collapse due to decades of abuse and neglect.
“Our efforts to protect the Visayan Sea should now move from law enforcement to restoration and declaring the whole area as national marine reserve is the key to make it happen,” he stressed.
Moreover, the resolution cites Article XIII Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution as legal basis for the declaration.
Such law provides that “the state shall protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore.”
It underscored further that the declaration is only way to safeguard and meet the policy. The need to widen the conservation area for the Visayan Sea will in turn widen the breeding ground of diverse marine life.
This will then give more opportunities for the people to increase their fish catch; thus improving their economic situation.