The provinces of Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Cebu and Masbate have renewed their commitment for the conservation, protection and restoration of the Visayan Sea.
Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor, Sr., Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon, Jr., Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III’s representative, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) director Eduardo Gongona signed the covenant of commitment and cooperation during their meeting in Sicogon Island, Carles, Iloilo on Saturday (July 22, 2017). Masbate Governor Antonio Kho was absent in the meeting.
Environmental advocate Atty. Antonio Oposa, Provincial Administrator Raul Banias, along with the six mayors of coastal municipalities in northern Iloilo, namely, Carlos Cabangal of Banate, Niel Tupas, Jr. of Barotac Viejo, Jett Rojas of Ajuy, Milliard Villanueva of Concepcion, Larry Villanueva of San Dionisio, and Siegfred Betita of Carles witnessed the covenant signing.
The covenant strengthens the partnership among the four local government units along with the national government agencies and other stakeholders to ensure the protection of the Visayan Sea which is considered the heart of marine bio-diversity on Earth. The local chief executives also vowed to push for the declaration of the Visayan Sea covering an area of 10,000 sq. km., more or less, as a “Fishery Management Area”. The covenant embodies the creation of the Management Council, composed of the governor of each province and the regional directors of BFAR, which will act as policy-making body and a Technical Working Group (TWG) that will provide the necessary support to the Management Council.
Iloilo Provincial Agriculture Office chief Dr. Ildefonso Toledo said the meeting also tackled the strengthening of the implementation of the provincial ordinance on the protection of the blue swimming crabs.
He said Gov. Marañon presented their practice in Negros Occidental of developing hatcheries for blue swimming crabs which Iloilo province would also try to emulate. Also taken up in the meeting was the strengthening of the enforcement of fishery laws amidst the reported continued proliferation of illegal trawl fishers. Toledo said a joint task force composed of the Bantay Dagat, BFAR, Maritime Command, and Philippine Coast Guard is being mulled to address the problem.