BFAR-8 Director Atty. Asis Perez.
BFAR-8 Director Atty. Asis Perez.

TACLOBAN CITY, (PNA) -– Massive distribution of fishing boats is one of the biggest mistakes committed by non-government organizations (NGOs) in the post-Yolanda rehabilitation in Eastern Visayas, said Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Asis Perez.

Perez noted that the number of fishing boats has doubled in coastal communities ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda, which resulted in overfishing.

“Many non-government organizations did not listen to us. We told them not to give new units of fishing boats because of limited marine resources in Leyte Gulf, but they were hard headed and still proceeded with the distribution,” Perez told Tacloban-based reporters in a media conference on Thursday in Manila.

Under BFAR’s Ahon initiative, the government helped fishermen in the repair of 17,000 fishing boats in Eastern Visayas. The proof that a fisherman owns a boat before super typhoon Yolanda struck is the boat’s unayan (base).

Those who lost the base were required to present a certification to get a replacement.

“We’re sure that a fisherman would always keep the unayan of their damaged boat because that’s expensive. We did not add bancas, we just repaired the damaged bancas so that there would be no additional fishing effort,” he explained.

However, the case was different with some non-government organizations where they distributed to fishermen regardless if they have a base or not.

“Their distribution is not within our control. We could not stop them since it is not illegal. I think the lesson learned in the rehabilitation is to listen to authorities,” Perez added.

The official recalled that BFAR posted in their website the names of boat repair beneficiaries to ensure that there would be no duplication, but some non-government organizations did not bother to check, according to him.

Citing the BFAR post-Yolanda assessment, Perez said that Leyte Gulf area has an average of only 2.4 metric tons of marine products per square kilometer. Leyte Gulf is one of the largest fishing grounds in the region, benefiting fisherfolk in some parts of Leyte, Samar and Eastern Samar.

Fisherman Raulito Aneslagon, 51, from the city’s Magallanes district, confirmed that there is indeed over fishing in Leyte Gulf.

Before Yolanda struck, he used to catch 12 kilograms of fishes. Since he returned fishing after BFAR repaired his boat, his average daily catch is only four to five kilograms a day. His income dropped to PHP600 daily from PHP1,500 in the pre-Yolanda level.

“I noticed that there are more fishermen and more fishing boats now than in 2013,” Aneslagon said.

Leo Dacudong, 60, of San Jose district admitted that he got an extra boat from an NGO after BFAR repaired his damaged vessel. Another group provided him fishing gears.

“Two boats are operating, but the volume of catch is even less compared to 2013 because there are more of us doing fishing now,” he added. (PNA)