While a few of the nine completed Community Fish Landing Centers (CFLCs) in Catanduanes are operating, they are not living up to their full potential due to lack of patronage from fishermen in their respective areas.
Some are also lacking the required municipal ordinance that would legalize their operations and sanction the collection of fees from users, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said last week.
The completed fish landing centers are in Bagatabao, Bagamanoc; Eastern Poblacion, Baras; Pananaogan, Bato; Baybay, Caramoran; Gigmoto; Del Norte, Pandan; San Andres; and San Vicente, Virac.
In Baras, for example, the approved 2018 ordinance that adopted the CLFC rates provides for the collection of P0.25 per kilogram unloading fee on fish producers and boat operators, P2/kg. market fee on fish brokers and traders, P5 per block of ice as conveyance fee on clients who sell ice inside the port from outside sources, P2 per kilo per day fish storage fee, entrance/parking fee on all vehicles, berthing fee on commercial and municipal vessels, space rental fees and accreditation fees.
Among the fees, the transhipment charge of P5 per kilo of fish reportedly brought opposition from traders buying fish directly from producers with the intention of transporting the fish outside the municipality.
They allegedly claimed that the fee was too high and would unnecessarily raise the price of fish to be sold in other towns, thus reducing their profit margin.
The collection of fees has reportedly discouraged some fishermen from delivering their catch to the fish landing center as required under the CFLC operations manual, with the fish instead unloaded at the coastal villages where it is bought by traders.
The same problem has been reported in other CFLCs in Bato, Bagamanoc, Pandan and San Andres.
In Caramoran town, the fish landing center in Baybay has likewise encountered the same issue.
Upon completion of the facility in 2021, the Sangguniang Bayan approved Municipal Ordinance No. 6-2021 adopting the CFLC Operational Manual, providing funds for its initial operation under co-management of LGU and the fisherfolk organization prior to management turnover.
Under the ordinance, the Baybay barangay council is supposed to hire workers who will oversee peace and order as well as cleanliness of the compound.
The measure mandates all fish catch within the municipal waters of Caramoran to be delivered to the Baybay CFLC as provided under the manual.
“Trading/selling/buying of fish catch out in the sea shall be strictly prohibited,” the ordinance states, with Bantay Dagat in coastal barangays supposed to ensure compliance with the prohibition on the trading of fish outside the facility.
While the fish landing center is already covered by an ordinance, Municipal Agriculturist Israel dela Rosa told the Tribune in a text message, it needs to be amended as far as the prices of fish is concerned.
“Hababa masyado ang taripa na nakasaad, ga-angal ang mga para-simber kung iyo ito ang ipapatupad, kaya ngunyan plano itong amyendahan,” he stated.
De la Rosa stressed that the operation of a facility should be supported by a law as it would be difficult to run it in the absence of an ordinance.
He likewise cited the municipal slaughterhouse as having the same problem but the ordinances for both LGU facilities are scheduled for approval following the Sangguniang Bayan’s compliance with some requirements of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
Meanwhile, BFAR Catanduanes officer-in-charge Jorge Camacho revealed that the rehabilitation of the BFAR provincial office building at the Virac Community Hub is set to begin anytime now after the regional office conducted the bidding.
The three-storey building was set for turnover in November 2020 when super typhoon Rolly hit the island, wreaking heavy damage on its windows, doors, ceilings and other parts.
While the proposed rehabilitation is supposed to cost a total of P3 million, BFAR was able to allot only a million pesos for the first floor but it would enable the Catanduanes personnel to move in and leave its cramped 20-square meter office at the provincial government-owned compound in Constantino.
Its present office is crowded with five tables and shelves crammed into the limited space shared by OIC Camacho and the only other permanent staff (the Senior Aquaculturist), as well as seven (7) job-order workers consisting five (5) community development officers and two other staff.
Starting his BFAR stint as a training officer, Camacho has risen to the top of the Catanduanes office but he is not quite there.
He remains as officer-in-charge, not as a full-fledged Provincial Fishery Officer, according to reports.
Like the rest of the heads of BFAR provincial offices, the OICs do not enjoy the Representation Allowance and Travel Allowance (RATA) enjoyed by similar heads of offices and remains at Salary Grade 18, with remuneration not commensurate to their duties and responsibilities of managing a province-wide concern.