DAGUPAN CITY – In support of marginal fisherfolks, various programs and projects had been undertaken by the city government to boost their fish catch that enabled them to earn more so that they can sustain the needs of their families.

With Mayor Belen T. Fernandez at the helm, the city implemented a massive clean-up drive along the rivers that removed illegal fish pens through the program “Sa Ilog Ko, May Pagbabago”.

Fernandez believes that the river rightfully belongs to the marginal fisherfolks who have long been deprived of the benefits from their bounties.

After four years of hard work following numerous consultations as well as the adoption of the  “no kotong” and corruption policy, the water in the rivers  is now cleaner as compared to its previous condition when  it used to be colored brown, apart from being smelly.

The city’s campaign against illegal structures also yielded positive result.

At present, at least 99 hectares of the city’s rivers are now available as open spaces for the city’s marginal fisherfolks to operate fish cages, fish traps as well as oyster beds after the city dismantled more than 900 illegal fish pens.

With this development, Fernandez met with the Pederasyon ng mga Mangingisda sa Dagupan City (PedManDaCi) and discussed with them the implementation of 7×10 fish cage provided for in the amended fishing ordinance of the city.

This ordinance also mandates that only local fisher folks are allowed to operate fish cages if they follow the terms and conditions set by the city.

Thus, from just mere caretakers of fish pens before, the city’s marginal fisher folks have now became new entrepreneurs as they now own their respective fish cages.

In order to legally own one, a local fisher folk must first secure a business permit from the city, sign an Aqua Lease Agreement with the City Agriculture Office and pay the corresponding fee required under the ordinance.

The city has adopted a strict “no ALA, no permit, and no fish cage” policy.

Part of the terms and conditions is also for them to keep the rivers always clean.

Under the ordinance, operation of a fish cage without a permit will be meted with penalty.

Owners will fined P5,000 and one-year imprisonment while the caretakers will be fined P2,500 and six-months imprisonment.

As part of her policy of bringing the government closer to the people, Mayor Feenandez, along with the City Agriculture Office and the One-Stop Business Center, met with the fisherfolks of Barangay Salapingao on January 25 and February 7 to conduct a mobile registration to accommodate applicants for ALA and for business permit.

At least 53 were allowed by the city to operate their own fish cages.

Aside from this, the city also provided them (fisher folks) with various livelihood assistance, which include the provision of fishing materials like nets, ropes, floaters, sinkers and bamboos for operating a ”batikwas”, skylab, floating cages, oyster beds and hangings, ”surewin”, and ”skyblue”.

Other fisherfolks received non-motorized fishing boats or ‘baloto’, bamboo rafts or “lamo”, floating oyster rafts, fry collector nets and motorized fishing boats with fish finder gadgets.

The PedManDaCi as an organization also received beach seine project funded by the Department of Labor and Employment while their wives were provided with trainings and capacity buildings on fish processing, in coordination with the different national government agencies, like the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Pangasinan State University, DOLE and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The association producing the “Maria Endang” dried fish and the housewives of fishermen in Bonuan Gueset and Pantal were assisted by the city and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources while those from Bonuan Boquig, Bonuan Binloc and Mangin were assisted through the city’s Gender and Development program.

With a clean river, oyster growers are happy to note that for less than three months, they can now harvest their oysters which enable their product to sell at a better price.

Adolfo Sandoval of Sitio Tococ, Lucao disclosed that from their harvests barely for less than three months, they were able to sell their oysters at from P350 to P400 per tin can.

According to Sandoval, if his good fortune will continue, his family will be able to send his three children up to college.

Meanwhile, Jesus Purugganan, also of Tococ, Lucao also attested that the oyster industry is now a good source of income after fish pens had been removed by the city  from the rivers.

Both Sandoval and Purugganan are among the 15 oyster growers in the area who received livelihood assistance from the city in the form of bamboos and rubber strips for their oyster farm.

Dagupan bangus, which is the tastiest milkfish in the world, now commands a better price. A kilo of bangus now sells at P120 per kilo on wholesale, and P140 per kilo on retail.

Mayor Fernandez promised that no fisherman, as long as he is industrious and forward-looking,   would be left behind in Dagupan. (Joseph C. Bacani/CIO/Feb. 12, 2018)