Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Parties settle fishcage row

                                                                BY RUEL CAMBA

PARTIES involved in the fishcage controversy in Sual town have forged an agreement that may have ended the dispute.
            In a recent interview over DWPR-Power Radyo, Mayor Roberto “Bing” Arcinuesaid that in a meeting on Oct. 8 officials from various concerned government agencies, including those representing the fishcage operators, have agreed on the following steps to end the controversy:
Author and savvy media man Ruel Camba (1st from left) recently
interviewed Sual Mayor Roberto Arcinue
1.      Fishcages located within the 250-meter “critical zone” from the Sual Power Plant will be re-located;
2.      A demarcation line will be set up to delineate the 250-meter area, with the plant management providing the buoys, demarcation line, and anchor while the affected fishcage operators will shoulder the relocation expenses;
3.      All fishcage operators will have to secure environmental compliance certificates from the EMB-DENR and pay P4,500 as application fee, and P50,000 fine if any.
Arcinue said that among those who attended the meeting were officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Environment Management Bureau (EMB) of DENR, Philippine Ports Authority, Sual Power Plant, and fishcage operators.
“There was mutual understanding on the part of the management of the power plant, the fishcage operators, and municipality of Sual about the need to observe and respect co-existence,” Arcinue said.
Arcinue thanked Federico Puno, president of Team Energy that operates the Sual power plant, for the latter’s intervention in resolving the controversy.
He said Puno in his letter expressed his company’s desire to maintain goodwill with the municipality of Sual even as he hoped that a lasting solution to the dispute be achieved.
Earlier, Sual power plant manager Ruben Licerio raised concern about a fishkill that could disrupt plant operation and trigger a Luzon-wide blackout.
Licerio sought the help of Gov. Amado Espino who ordered an investigation on the matter.
A series of dialogues among concerned parties resulted to an agreement by which a 250-meter critical zone shall be established around the power plant, particularly in the Cabalitian Bay where the fishcages are located.
“Conporme kami lanamin. We have decided to consider the concern of the power plant management,” Arcinue told DWPR-Power Radyo.
He said that affected  operators have started re-locating their fishcages even without a definite date set for relocation.
“Unongedtalusan mi, ayusnaayus kami la. Agko anta balet no antoypakatalosan provincial government edsayan development,” Arcinue said. (As per our agreement, we are now very much settled. I don’t know, however, how the provincial government would consider this development.)
Arcinue explained that the affected fishcage operators could not abruptly relocate the units as this would adversely affect the growth of the milkfish being raised.
“So, I told them to start transferring their stocks little by little or slow motion on a daily basis and not wait for full harvest anymore,” he said, adding that this way they know how to honor their agreement even if verbally made.
He said that Regional Director AvelinoMunar Jr. of the Philippine Ports Authority saw no problem about the presence of fishcages in Cabalitian Bay since the planned international seaport located off in Sual Bay is yet to be completed.
Arcinue added that the possibility of a fishkill disrupting the operation of the plant is “very remote because the municipal agriculturist and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources are constantly monitoring water quality and the operation of the fish cages.”
BFAR Regional Director Nestor Domenden reported that water quality in Cabalitian Bay has not deteriorated even with the presence of the fishcages, he said.
He said the plant management itself is conducting monthly water quality testing, while the BFAR with the assistance of the municipal agriculturist conducts the testing twice a month.
“Kanyanmareen kami la diadSual.Maayos la so talusan.Kumonaglaramanggaway arum yaisyu,” he said.
                                    Investment friendly
Mayor Arcinue said the municipal government of Sual enacted its fishery code that allows the operation of fishcages in its municipal waters to generate jobs and revenues and encourage more investors to do business in the municipality.
He said this policy is in support of the vision of Gov. Espino to transform Pangasinan “to be the best place to invest, work, live and raise a family.”
            Even the SangguniangPanlalawigan supported this thrust of the municipality of Sual when it reviewed and approved the town’s fishery code, he said.
“Our position here in Sual is that, sanamagkaroontayong sustainability ngmga fish cages, mas pagandahinyongatingmariculture zone area nangmakatulongtayosa food security ngatingbansa,” he said.
Aside from generating from P7 million to P9 million annual income for the municipality in terms of business taxes, the fish cages also provide employment to some 3,500 to 5,000 local residents and their families, he said.
            The local fishery code allows for the construction of 735 fish cages in the town’s municipal waters, excluding the 200 units allowed in Babay Sur which is not yet occupied.
            According to BFAR, there are now about 778 fish cages in the Cabalitian Bay.
            Arcinue said he has ordered an inventory of the existing fish cages to verify reports that there are some structures whose owners did not secure business permits and ECC.
            “We will ask them to comply with the requirements and if they refuse, they will have to go,” he said.
            Arcinue said he will never allow the dismantling of the fish cages as these provide additional income to the municipality as well as jobs and livelihood opportunities to residents.
            He added that the milkfish produced by the fish cages are a big boon to the government’s food security program.
The combined production of all the fish cages in Sual is 30 metric tons a day, many of which are shipped to Dagupan City and Metro Manila.
                                    CDO issued
EMB Regional Director Joel Salvador told members of the SangguniangPanlalawigan during last Monday’s regular session that he has already issued on Oct. 11 a cease-and-desist order to 31 fishcage operators who have yet so secure their respective ECCs.
Salvador said he will seek the assistance of the PNP and the provincial government in implementing the cease-and-desist order.
The 31 operators were given within 15 days from receipt of the CDO to explain in writing why they should not be charged administratively for violating the ECC law since they are operating their fish cages in a bay area.

Aside from this, the operators were slapped by DENR-EMB with P50,000 fine for each fish cage that they own. It was learned that each operator own from seven to 50 fish cages. 

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