Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, chair of the Senate select oversight committee on Local Government Code of 1991, has put premium to the voice of ordinary people in law-making as he listened to their views in a public consultation held in Gen. Santos City while the Senate is still on break.
The meeting was in line with Senate Bill 231, requiring coastal provinces, cities and first class municipalities to have a marine reserve and a fisheries officer to supervise it, and Senate Bill 445, which seeks to include the municipal waters within the 15 km. jurisdiction in computing the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of a municipality.
“I firmly believe that we should hear from local residents because they are the ones who really know what’s happening in their own locality,” Marcos said, as he expressed gratitude to the attendees and vowed to bring to the attention of his fellow senators the inputs from the resource persons when the bills are discussed on the Senate floor.
Aside from local residents, representatives from cooperatives groups, fishing industry stakeholders, and regional and provincial officers from the Departments of Agriculture, Interior and Local Government, Environment and Natural Resources, and Budget and Management attended the public consultation.
Marcos noted that while the consultation started on the discussion on national policy and the bureaucracy, the inputs and concerns from the local fisher folks revealed the actual situation on the ground.
Nestor Omapas, a fisherman, expressed fear influential and moneyed people might exploit the marine reserves to the detriment of ordinary fisher folks.
“In our experience, if somebody owns the land fronting the reserve, he would also deem the water as his own; there were also an area declared a fish sanctuary but the owner of the land constructed a wharf there,” he said.
Another issue raised was the possible duplication of functions of the local fisheries officer and the supervisor of the protected areas under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which are under the local government units and DENR, respectively.
The senator noted that despite the concerns, there was practically unanimous support for the passage of SB 231 as well as SB 445, which both promise additional revenues for coastal municipalities.
Dole Philippines Manager, Mr. Elmer Dy, representing the city’s business chamber, even agreed that the bill would be good not only for the big fishing industry but also for the small fishermen as well.