Rebirth of Batanes fishing grounds

In Photo: A sunset scene in the grassland of Vayang, or Rolling Hills, in Basco, Batan Island, Batanes.

The military will sustain its maritime patrol in the country’s northern waters, as local government officials and fishermen in Batanes note a marked decline in the incursion of foreign poachers in the area.

A view of the Mahatao Boat Shelter in Batanes, made to protect vessels
from big waves during typhoons. Mark Pelobello | Dreamstime.com

The air and sea patrols by the Air Force and the Navy, and even by the Philippine Coast Guard, were being conducted both for territorial operations and for the government’s effort to provide a fishing haven for Filipino fishermen.

No less than Batanes Governor Marilou H. Cayco has relayed to Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo the benefits to fishermen of the frequent maritime patrols by the military.

Tanalgo said Cayco extended the gratitude of Batanes fishermen for the continuous maritime patrol being conducted by the Air Force and the Navy in the country’s northernmost maritime territory.

The Batanes governor wrote a letter to Tanalgo, wherein she said she was being flooded with positive feedback, especially from the fishermen who are mostly benefiting from the patrols.

“The incessant problem of poaching in our waters took a respite after the patrol, and [that] according to our fisherfolk,  they can now fish without being in persistent fear of encountering boats with foreign marking,” Cayco wrote.

“Our scarce resources and means in protecting our own territory was obliterated by the AFP’s genuine concern to our people by keeping our people safe and free from threats of foreign poachers,” she added.

Strategic importance

On March 19 the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF16) sailed to Mavulis Island in Itbayat, Batanes, for patrol, and also took it to the waters of Ilocos Norte and Cagayan. Since then, the patrol was sustained.

The Nolcom fired off its maritime domain awareness activities in Mavulis Island early last year, following reports about the regular presence of foreign poachers in its waters.

But other than securing its waters for fishermen, the military also wanted to keep the strategic importance of Mavulis.

Mavulis, the country’s northernmost island which borders Taiwan, sits along the Bashi Channel. During their first visit to Mavulis last year, Tanalgo and other officials from Nolcom found in the island trash with Chinese markings, indicating the irregular presence of poachers there.

Aside from illegal fishing, foreign intruders also come into the island to hunt for wild goats and other previously domesticated animals that were left in the island by Ivatans who attempted to settle there.

Violators

The importance of the maritime patrol in the waters off Mavulis was earlier underscored by Ruelle Ibanes, the former mayor of Itbayat.

“We are very thankful for this [patrol]. We have been looking forward to this for decade and I hope that our presence out there [Mavulis] will be sustained because we can only do so much in preserving our territorial integrity, as well as our source of livelihood, which is fishing,” he said.

Ibanes complained that their maritime waters are continuously being violated by Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

“Even fishermen from the capital town of Basco on small fishing boats go there to fish and usually encounter big fishing boats from Taiwan, Vietnam and those from Mainland China out there,” he said.

Tanalgo said the military will support all undertakings of the municipal government in securing Mavulis, noting that civilian participation is a key factor in securing and safeguarding the country’s maritime domain in the area.

The military is also planning to construct an airstrip in Itbayat.

In March last year the Department of National Defense also announced plans to build a maritime facility in Mahatao, also in Batanes, as part of the government’s effort to secure its maritime territory. The facility would include a Navy detachment.

The facility in Mahatao will have naval installations that could provide logistics, training and others support services in the conduct of prompt and sustained fleet and marine operation in Batanes.

Image credits: Richard Balonglong | Dreamstime.com, Mark Pelobello | Dreamstime.com

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