Pangasinan fish cages operating without ECCs
LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—No aquaculture operator in Pangasinan province has secured an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) even though their fish farming ventures have been operating for years, an EMB official in the Ilocos region said.
The issue surfaced after the EMB ordered 31 operators of fish cages in Sual town to stop operating after they were found to be operating without ECCs.
Joel Salvador, EMB Ilocos regional director, said the management of the Sual coal-fired power plant was worried that the operation of fish cages would pose a threat to the security of the plant, citing incidents when fish escaping from cages found their way to the plant’s water intake facility.
Salvador said EMB personnel, after an inspection of Sual’s aquaculture area, found that water quality there had deteriorated.
Nestor Domenden, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional director, said his agency, as early as 2001, had asked owners of fishery structures, like fish cages and pens, to secure ECCs before they operate.
But Domenden said local governments had been issuing permits to aquaculture operators and it was their lookout that these operators comply with environmental laws.
Gov. Amado Espino Jr. supported the BFAR’s call for the need to secure ECCs for fishery operations in all towns.
“Yes, they should secure ECCs. [The provincial government’s role] is just supervisory and the local government, the BFAR and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) are the ones that [issue] the order so [operators] should follow [them],” he said.
The western Pangasinan towns of Bolinao and Anda rely heavily on the aquaculture industry. But aquaculture zones in these towns had been hit by several incidents of fish kill in the past. Studies showed that the water quality in the aquaculture areas of Bolinao and Anda had deteriorated.
In Sual, Domenden said the BFAR’s latest monitoring showed that water quality in its mariculture area was in good condition.
“What is good about Sual is the mariculture area there is in a semi-open [cove] so the water is still good, although there are indications that it is deteriorating. But we are managing that so that the industry will be sustainable,” he said.
The BFAR and the Sual government assigned a 10-hectare mariculture zone on Cabalitian Bay in December last year. It is the only aquaculture area in Pangasinan that was granted an ECC by the EMB, but none of the 747 fish cages covered by the cease-and-desist order (CDO) were operating in that designated zone, Domenden said.
Salvador said only 31 companies or individual investors own the 747 cages, and a CDO is issued to each operator. An operator is penalized P50,000 regardless of the number of cages he or she owns.
He said the EMB would seek the assistance of the police and the provincial government to implement the CDO.
“We hope to get the same result just like what the provincial government did when it conducted massive clearing operations in the waterways of Pangasinan,” he said. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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