City official confirms proliferation

ILLEGAL FISH PENS

AFTER continued denials from City Hall, a Dagupan official has finally confirmed that illegal fish pens and cages, indeed, are back in the waters of Dagupan since three months ago and vowed that these illegal structures will soon be removed.

For the past three weeks, city hall officials, including city agriuclturist Emma Molina, brushed aside and belittled reports by The PUNCH that illegal fish pens have been mushrooming in many parts of the city’s river system.

Manuel Gutierrez, head of the river and coastal protection and management, said the City Agriculture Office (CAO) already sent notices for demolition to the 25 identified owners of these illegal structures, some of whom are elected barangay officials.

The PUNCH had reported the presence of more than 50 illegal fish pens in the city’s river system  and tributaries.

Most of the fish pens and cages are located in the island barangays and in Tokok Talaib in Barangay Lucao.

Gutierrez said his office, which is in charge of monitoring and removing illegal structures in the river systems, failed to implement the dismantling operations earlier due to lack of personnel and transportation.

“We don’t have our own boat and we borrow from the city agriculture office, and we also lacked personnel since then we were unable to monitor and conduct operation on the river systems,” he said.

NO PENALTY

Gutierrez said the boat is now available for their use but they are postponing the demolition until after the harvest of the fishes from the structures in consideration of the farmers.

He pointed out, however, that the owners will also not be penalized in spite of the provision under the city’s fishery code which provides that owners of illegal structures will have to pay P5, 000 as a fine.

“For humanitarian reason, we will not penalize them, we will demolish their structures anyway,” said Gutierrez.

In the meantime, the river and coastal protection and management office has already created a new team composed of five personnel that will conduct monitoring on weekends, the days when most illegal structures are usually set up.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) recently warned the local governments of Dagupan and neighboring Binmaley of a possible fish kill due to the proliferation of fish pens and fish cages in their river systems.

Director Westly Rosario of the National Integrated Fisheries Technology and Development Center (NIFTDC), an agency under BFAR, expressed concern that pollutants are already building up and this, along with neap tide, could affect the marine life along the waters of Sabangan area from Dagupan City going to Binmaley and the waters in Mamalingling, Dagupan.

Rosario’s team has verified that the illegal fish structures are the cause of the pollutants.–Dada Martin Austria

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