Third District Representative Francisco “Kiko” Benitez calls for action to support blue swimming crab fisherfolks during the launch of the first Regional Congress of Panay-Negros-Guimaras Crab Fishers Alliciance (PANEG-CA) on December 18, 2023, at Negros Residences, bringing together fisherfolks from Negros, Panay, and Guimaras.
During his speech, Benitez noted that Philippine blue swimming crabs are internationally recognized as un-sustainably fished. He remarked, “Issues such as habitat damage and overfishing continue to exert significant pressure on our blue swimming crab population,” further emphasizing, “fishing mortality rates are too high, and it is getting sufficiently alarming,” said Benitez.
As one of the solutions to this issue, Benitez emphasized the need for hatcheries to replenish the population, the creation of reserved areas, and implementing closed seasons to give crabs time to grow. “Kung mahimo ta ni nga tatlo, ma-kuha ang aton red flag sa Blue Swimming Crab,” said Benitez.
Benitez lauded the unity of fisherfolks from Panay, Guimaras, and Negros, emphasizing the necessity to transcend political boundaries and adopt a whole-of-nation approach to ecosystem-based fisheries management. “Kinahanglan, tanan kita ga-updanay, tanan kita ga-abide, para ma buligan ta gid ang ecosystem sang kasag nga liwat magbangon,” stressed Benitez.
He urged fisherfolks to use the first Regional Congress as an opportunity to collaborate, balancing economic needs with ecological sustainability. “Akon request istoryahan nyo gid sang kaayo kung ano gid ang maayo para sa aton kasag, so balancehon ta ang kinahanglon ta para mag regenerate ang cycle sang kasag”
Benitez informed the crowd of legislative initiatives Congress is working on to support fisherfolks, including a review of the Fisheries Code and the Integrated Coastal Area Management bill.
Benitez is author of the Blue Economy Bill, which seeks to mandate agencies to coordinate zoning for fishing grounds, transport, and other uses for the seas and oceans. “The world of nature does not abide by our political boundaries,” said Benitez. “So, we need to coordinate our efforts para indi fragmented aton policies.”
“Kung ano man aton mga benepisyo nga ga-galin sa dagat, kailangnan gina-isip na sang NEDA kag gina-isip sang PSA.” “Ini na aton mga closed season para mana giyapon i-monitor sang gobyerno.” said Benitez while explaining his PENCAS bill, which also passed third and final reading.
In closing, Benitez assured fisherfolks that he will continue to help them achieve democratic and sustainable fisheries. “Hatagan naton attention aton mga fisherfolk and those in subsistence fisheries, kay mandato na sang aton Constitution nga unahon ang aton mga fisherfolk.” “Ga-pangita kami sang paagi, ga-pangita kami sang layi para ini nga probisyon sang Constitution ma-hatagan sang implementing laws.”