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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
March, 1999 Vol. 2 No. 3

Coastal Alert





Philippine Year of the Ocean campaign wins Anvil Merit Award
RP supports UN fishery accord
Not enough fish supply for Lent
Restriction on active gear does not cover spear guns, beach seine -- BFAR
Government to monitor food security program
Drive vs fine mesh nets planned
Local governments want easier ECC requirements
Groups to help protect Celebes, Sulu Seas
Calamity loan for seaweed farmers
Mangrove shortage hurting tuba drinkers

Philippine Year of the Ocean Campaign Wins Anvil Merit Award
“Year of the Ocean: A Philippine Response to the Call to Action for Our Seas”, a year-long package of special events and public education activities received an Anvil Award of Merit from the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP).

Now on its 34th year, the annual Anvil Awards regarded as the “Oscars” of the public relations industry in the Philippines.

The Year of the Ocean campaign was launched in February 1998 in celebration of the International Year of the Ocean. It was spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Coastal Environment Program and The Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP) in partnership with the UNESCO National Committee on Marine Sciences and supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

The Year of the Ocean campaign consisted of six components. “Our Seas, Our Life,” an exhibit on marine life, was shown in Cebu City, Manila, Dumaguete City, Davao City and Gen. Santos City, where more than one million people viewed it. Competitions and events highlighting the ocean theme were also held in various parts of the country. A community arts project called The Blue Tapestry was started with the help of Levi Strauss Philippines Inc. and the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. CRMP launched, its official website, which focused on developments in coastal resource management in the Philippines and other parts of the world. In addition, a new organization called “I Love the Ocean Movement” was created to allow concerned individuals to work together for the ocean’s cause. “I Love the Ocean,” which now counts more than 10,000 members nationwide, adopted “Ang Dagat ay Buhay”, a song written especially for the Year of the Ocean campaign by multi-awarded composer Vehnee Saturno, as its theme song.

CRMP Chief of Party Catherine Courtney said the Year of the Ocean is the result of “effective collaborative effort” among many organizations and sectors. “Several organizations and people pushed the celebration forward, giving support and initiating action to promote appreciation for and protection of our resources,” she said.
Among those who participated in the campaign were the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Information Agency, Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank, SM City Cebu and SM Prime Holdings, Gaisano Citimall-Davao and Gaisano Gen. Santos, Islands Souvenirs, Universal Aboitiz, WG&A, the hotel, food and beverage industries and travel companies.

RP supports UN fishery accord
The Philippines gave its full support to a UN accord on “responsible fisheries,” which provides for sustainable or environment-friendly fishing, aquaculture, and other fishery-related activities.
During a two-day Food and Agriculture Organization ministerial meeting held in Rome, Acting Philippine Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the Estrada administration endorses the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The code was adopted by the FAO conference during its 28th session in October 1995.

In a country statement presented at the start of the two-day meeting, Dar said “the Philippine government has given special emphasis on fishing operations, one of the six major areas of concern outlined under the code.” He also said the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) has created a 12-member committee on the code’s five other concerns, namely, aquatic development, fisheries management, integration of fisheries into coastal area management, post-harvest practices and trade, and fisheries research.

To emphasize the importance of the code to various coastal stakeholders, “training programs have been incorporated into the curriculum to introduce the concept of responsible fisheries, encompassing sustainable utilization of fishery resources in harmony with the environment,” Dar added.
Dar was among 40 secretaries presented their respective country statements in support of the FAO-initiated fisheries code. PNA in Sun.Star Daily, 03.15.99

Not enough fish supply for Lent
Cebu, an island province in central Philippines, is bracing itself for a deficit in fresh fish supply as Catholics abstain from meat in observance of the Lenten season.

Corazon Corrales, regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said the government has entered into an agreement with the fish producers of Bantayan Island, a favorite fish source for Cebuanos, to address the problem. She cautioned, however, that the fishermen’s harvest “would greatly depend on the weather.”

Corrales identified the Visayas Sea, Sulu Sea, Bohol Sea and the Tanon Strait as possible sources of fish for Cebu. Last year, Cebu’s fresh fish production hit only 13,620 metric tons, way below the demand of 111,171 tons. The average fish consumption in the Central Visayas region is 36 kg per person per year.
To ease the expected shortage, fish suppliers have begun producing dried fish. Part of the requirement will be sourced from Bantayan Island, and another 900,000 kg will be sourced from other provinces. By GM Tenchavez, Cebu Daily News, 03.09.99

Restriction on active gear does not cover spear guns, beach seine -- BFAR
The use of spear guns and beach seine is not prohibited in municipal waters. Director Arsenio Camacho of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource (DA-BFAR) expressed this opinion in an official communication, dated November 3, 1998, to Fisheries Division Chief Reuben Majam of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of the province of Negros Oriental.

Camacho’s opinion is based on Section 90 of the Philippine Fisheries Code (Republic Act No. 8550), which contains penalty provisions that specifically apply only to certain violators: imprisonment (2-6 years) for “the boat captain and master fisherman of the vessels who participated in the violation,” and a fine of P2,000-20,000 for “the owner/operator of the vessel”, the chief executive if the boat owner/operator is a corporation, or the managing partner if the owner/operator is a partnership.
The opinion, however, appears to have overlooked a third penalty provision, which is general in application and may cover all offenders. The third provision states simply, “The catch shall be confiscated and forfeited.”

“The restriction on fishing using active gear within municipal waters, bays and fishery management areas refers only to active gear of fishing boats, both municipal and commercial, since the culpability lies on: (1) the boat captain and master fisherman (for commercial fishing boats); and (2) the owner/operator (of both municipal and commercial fishing boats),” said Camacho.

“That being the case,” he added, “it is deemed that the restriction does not extend to spear gun fishing nor to beach seine fishing. Even assuming that spear gun fishing is an active fishing gear, it is employed by a diver, not by a fishing boat. And although a boat is utilized in beach seine, it is only to spread the net further from the shore but the actual catching of the fish is done by those pulling the net (gear) on the shore, not aboard a boat.”

As defined in the Code, active fishing gear is “a fishing device characterized by gear movements, and/or the pursuit of the target species by towing, lifting, and pushing the gears, surrounding, covering, dredging, pumping and scaring the target species to impoundments; such as, but not limited to trawl, purse seines, Danish seines, bag nets, paaling, drift gill net and tuna longline.”
The Code clearly states that “it shall be unlawful to engage in fishing in municipal waters and in all bays as well as other fishery management areas using active fishing gears as defined in this Code.”

Government to monitor food security program
Regional monitoring teams are being set up to ensure the effective implementation of the national government’s food security agenda in the provinces.

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Ronaldo Puno said President Joseph Estrada also instructed his department to provide technical assistance to provincial governors in establishing Provincial Councils on Food Security (PCFS) in their respective provinces.
Puno also said measures are now being undertaken by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) “to carry out the President’s instructions and come up with comprehensive and systematic forms and procedures of monitoring the PCFS programs.”

Last January, a majority of the country’s governors led by Laguna Governor Joey Lina Jr., who is president of the League of Provinces, submitted a food security covenant committing their full support to the national government’s program on agricultural modernization and food security.

The governors vowed to fast-track their respective programs aimed a making the country self-sufficient in rice, corn and fish before President Estrada’s term ends in the year 2004. In response, the President announced a P200 million incentive package for the country’s top food-producing provinces by the yearend. PNA in Sun.Star Daily, 03.15.99.

Drive vs fine mesh nets planned
The Cebu City Bantay Dagat (Citizen’s Sea Patrol) is pushing for the regulation of the sale of fine mesh nets through a permit system. Bantay Dagat officials a provision to this effect to be included in the proposed ordinance regulating the use of fine mesh nets.
Fine mesh nets with holes smaller than three centimeters in diameter have been declared illegal by Republic Act 8550, the 1998 Fisheries Code.

With a permit system in place, noted Bantay Dagat Program Director Elpidio dela Victoria, “we can closely monitor the use of these fine mesh net.”

The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 does not allow the use of nets with a mesh size of less than 3 cm for fishing; such nets may now only be used to gather milkfish fry, glass eels, tabios, and small crabs.

Meanwhile the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) reported rampant use of fine mesh nets in three villages in Toledo City, Cebu.

Protacio Sayson, officer-in-charge of the Fisheries Resource Management Division of DA-BFAR in Region 7, said Toledo fishermen are using a net locally known as baling (beach seine). This gear can gather various species of small fish and fingerlings.
Samples of herring, sardines and anchovies taken from the area measured about 2-2.5 cm. Herring and sardines can grow up to 20 cm, while anchovies can reach 17 cm.

Toledo City Mayor Aurelio Espinosa promised to approve funding for the acquisition of two motorized bancas to be used for law enforcement. Sun.Star Daily, 03.15.99

Local governments want simpler ECC requirements
Local government officials and regional line agencies want the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to simplify its requirements for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) system to avoid delaying major projects. This came after the Regional Development Council, through the Committee on Sustainable Development, reminded local government units, regional line agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations to comply with the EIS.

Under the EIS, a development project or program can only be implemented when it passes an environmental impact assessment and is issued an environmental compliance certificate. The EIS is designed to ensure that development activities do cause serious damage to the environment or threaten public health.

According to the committee, the EIS has been largely ignored because of the high cost of doing an assessment and the long process of securing an ECC.

Costs can be reduced if the assessment is done with the project feasibility study, a DENR official suggested. Local government engineers can be tasked to initiate the study, he said. The EIS, he stressed, does not exempt any project, not even government projects. By M.V. Galarpe in The Freeman, 03.14.99

Groups to help protect Celebes, Sulu Seas
Several groups, including the provincial government of Negros Oriental and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, have pledged to protect and conserve the Sulu and Celebes Seas.

The Sulu and Celebes Seas were declared an integrated conservation and development zone in 1997 through Presidential Proclamation 1028. These seas are known for their rich biodiversity. They include the Tubbataha Reef and Turtle Islands, which are covered by separate protected area proclamations. The Tubbataha Reef is also a World Heritage Site, while the Turtle Islands is recognized as a major rookery for green sea turtles, one of only 10 found worldwide.

Both local and national government agencies, promising to curb illegal fishing in the area, signed a pledge of commitment during the launching of the Sulu-Celebes Seas project last March 5 in Negros Oriental.

The Sulu-Celebes Seas cover parts of Negros Island, Regions 4, 9 and 11. All of these regions have pledged support to the project, which will be headed by the Presidential Commission for the Integrated Conservation and Development of the Sulu and Celebes Seas.

A trust fund of P20 million has been set aside by the Office of the President for the project, and countries in the Sulu-Celebes area and international conservation groups will be tapped to provide additional support. At least three international groups have committed to or are involved in projects in the area. These are the Asean Senior Officers on the Environment, who in 1997 signed an agreement to conserve the two seas, Conservation International, and World Wildlife Fund. LAP in Sun.Star Daily, 03.09.99

Calamity loan for seaweed farmers
The Land Bank of the Philippines has approved in principle the proposal of the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) for the setting up of a P20-million calamity loan fund for seaweed farmers. Alicia Bautista, a manager of the Land Bank’s program management department, said the Bank recognizes that the seaweed industry offers vast possibilities despite problems of supply that currently beset the industry.

The SIAP reported some 60% of seaweed farms in the country were damaged by last year’s El Nino, and about 50% were also affected by the La Nina. Due to funding constraints, it could take about four or five months for seaweed farmers to fully replant their farms. If funds are made available to these farmers, replanting and rehabilitation of damaged farms could be completed in two months.
The calamity loan fund will be administered through the Integrated Seaweed Industry Development and Financing Program. I.R. Sino Cruz, Cebu Daily News, 03.06.99

Mangrove shortage hurting tuba drinkers
The Ilonggos are said to be connoisseurs of tuba, a wine made from coconut sap. But lately, they’ve been having upset stomachs from drinking their favorite liquor. The reason: producers have been using a new dye to give tuba its characteristic light-golden color.

The recipe for tuba calls for the addition of an extract from the bark of tangal, a kind of mangrove. This extract gives tuba its color, retards fermentation, and is also the secret of its special flavor.
Years of excessive harvesting has depleted the supply of tangal, which usually dies if skinned of its bark. A study by two scientists in Iloilo has revealed how the shortage of tangal is threatening not only the precious supply of tuba, but also other products dependent on tangal.

Senior scientist Jurgenne Primavera and researcher Lillian de la Pena, both of the aquaculture department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (Seafdec), said that the tangal bark is used as dye not only for tuba, but also for leather, cotton, nylon and even rice.

The tangal flower is a source of honey, while the leaf is used to treat ulcers and as a quinine substitute. The wood has a fine texture ideal for furniture. It is also used for firewood and charcoal, as poles for fish corrals, and a favorite material for Christmas tree.

The bark is also used to produce tuba variants such as the mellower bahalina, or mixed with thick chocolate and used as a muscle relaxant.

One hectare of tangal can produce almost 18,000 kg of the dried bark. Some tropical countries import the bark, but in the Philippines, it is commercially used only in tuba production.

According to the two scientists, the harvesting of the valuable tangal bark, known as baluk, was a major livelihood activity in the 1930s and 1950s. People in eastern Visayas once imported hundreds of tons of baluk from Zamboanga and, through the Philippine southern back door, Sabah in North Borneo.

Former baluk gatherers recall occasions when some 100 sailboats based at Panganan Island, Bohol, braved the seas in search of the bark. They sailed in March during the northwest monsoon and returned in July before the rainy season. Coastal villages in Mindoro, Palawan, Zamboanga, Surigao, Cotabato, Jolo, the Camotes group of islands, as well as Kudat and Banggi in North Borneo used to teem with tangal.

As in a fishing operation, the bark gatherers had a maestro who directed the trip and an assistant who supervised the crew. Each month, a financier took 5-10% of the earnings, and the remainder was divided among the financier, the boat owner and the crew.
The sailors bribed their way to North Borneo via Palawan. In Balabac, Palawan, they paid two sacks of rice and, in North Borneo, 14 bundles of the dried bark were given to a certain Datu Mustafa, said to be the governor of Kudat, North Borneo, as protection money.

The dried bark was sold to Waray-speaking coastal villages in Tacloban, Ormoc, Calbayog, Carigara and Maasin, as well as to Chinese buyers in Cebu. The tangal expeditions from Bohol stopped in the 1960s only when the mangrove supply was exhausted.

Tangal has become more appreciated recently for its reforestation value in coastal areas, Primavera and Dela Pena said. Some coastal communities in Panay have started replanting for both tuba and lumber. Some of the reforestation areas are at least several years old.

According to an old Visayan belief, every man should plant as many mangrove trees as the number of his children multiplied by four to represent the post of the children’s houses when they settle down. The tuba drinker has a more immediate concern: the tangal must survive, if only to save his beloved tuba. By D. Labiste, Philippine News and Features in The Freeman, 03.18.99



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