Batangas TF imposes July 31 deadline for removal of fish cages in Pansipit River
In an interview with GMANews.TV, Task Force vice chairman and protected areas superintendent Laudemir Salac said his group will be forced to dismantle the cages which are not removed by the end of the month.
Salac noted that cages built in the Pansipit River - a protected area - have been choking the key passageway of endemic maliputo fish from Balayan Bay to their breeding ground in the Taal Lake.
"It is really prohibited to place structures in Pansipit and therefore they (fish cages) are illegal... (So) by July 31, they (operators) should dismantle the cages themselves or we will be forced to remove them," Salac said.
The 9-kilometer Pansipit River, which traverses the towns of Agoncillo, Lemery, San Nicolas and Taal in Batangas, was declared a protected area in 1996 through the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.
For her part, Leah Villanueva, center chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources - Inland Fisheries and Research Station, said that the river is an essential part of the lake's ecosystem since it serves as the lake's lone water outlet to the Balayan Bay.
Aside from this, Villanueva said the Pansipit River is the only path of maliputo fish to the lake where they used to breed.
On November 24, 2007, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office – Calaca, reported that 164 fish cages have been built in the river, all without existing permits from the municipal governments of Agoncillo and San Nicolas.
Fishery experts have earlier expressed alarm over the existence of the fish cages in the river, saying that aside from blocking the lone path of maliputo fish to the lake, the cages also prevent water from circulating in the area.
This prompted Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto to create the task force, which started dismantling the cages in the river last June 12.
Back then, there are 128 cages in Pansipit but Salac believes the original number has been reduced.
At present, Salac said that the task force is only removing the abandoned cages in the river to give the operators time to harvest their fish stocks.
The Philippine Fisheries Code prohibits the placement of fish cages, fish pens and other aquaculture facilities in the country's water bodies "without a license or permit."
Obstruction to the defined fish migration path is also prohibited under the law, subject to fine penalties of P50,000 to P100,000 and 7 to 12 years imprisonment. - Marlon Alexander Luistro, GMANews.TV