Philippine fisheries

Demolition of illegal fishing structures in Cavite City begins

Jerome Sagcal

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Demolition of illegal fishing structures in Cavite City begins

A team from the DENR, Coast Guard and PNP Maritime Group start dismantling 'sapra' or illegal fish traps coastal waters of Cavite City on November 4, 2021.

Dennis Abrina/Rappler

For starters, the combined team from the DENR, PCG, and PNP-MG will demolish all illegal sapra

A combined team from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Philippine National Police Maritime Group (PNP-MG) started the demolition of 33 sets of sapra or illegal lift nets in Cavite City on Thursday, November 4.

The first 10 sapra were targeted on Thursday and the DENR said at a press conference that the demolitions would continue until November 6, or until all sapra were dismantled.

The DENR ordered the demolition of unlicensed fishing operators structures in the Cavite part of Manila Bay after wrecked bamboo poles drifted to the shore of the Manila Baywalk following heavy monsoon rain in July.

The DENR said in September it marked 333 unlicensed fishing structures in Cavite City but only illegal lift nets were initially set for demolition Thursday.

DENR Regional Executive Director Nilo Tamoria explained that a sapra is a fish-trapping structure that uses superlight to indiscriminately attract fish regardless of its size. The use of superlight in municipal waters is a  violation of the Philippine fisheries code.

The Manila Bay Inter-Agency Task Force (MBITF) in August said the order was in compliance with the 2008 Supreme Court issuance of a writ of mandamus compelling the government to restore and maintain the waters of Manila Bay to “SB level”, or suitable for bath and recreation.

Only shellfish propagation and fish spawning are allowed on bodies of water with an SB level, the agency said.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the demolition of the unlicensed structures would benefit small-scale fisherfolk as big industries take up most of the municipal waters, forcing local fishers into deeper waters.

Ang aming pong gagawin ay ang pagbibigay ng parehas na opurtunidad sa ating maliliit na mangingisda na makapangisda na malapit sa pangpang. Sa ngayon ang kailangan po sa kanila ay 15km away para makapagisda sila nang malaya. Dahil kung titignan niyo ang mga struktura na yan, na nasa tinatawag nating municipal waters, yan yung nakahambalang sa kanilang pangisdaan,” Antiporda said in a mix of Tagalog and English during the press conference.

(What we are doing here is giving an equal opportunity for small-scale fisherfolk to fish near the shore. Fishers right now have to sail up to 15km away from the coastline to fish as those [sapras], which are on municipal waters, are taking up their space.)

Antiporda said a “thin line of legality” enabled capitalists to exploit the area as there are conflicting boundaries in the municipal waters and overlapping jurisdiction of the issue between DENR, PCG, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). –

Jerome Sagcal is a Luzon based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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