Philippine Daily Inquirer - - REGIONS - @nestor­bur­gosINQ By Nestor P. Bur­gos Jr.

ILOILO CITY— Four prov­inces in the Visayas and the Bu­reau of Fish­eries and Aquatic Re­sources (BFAR) have for­mal­ized an agree­ment to pro­tect the Visayan Sea from il­le­gal fish­ing and other en­vi­ron­men­tal threats.

In a covenant signed re­cently in Sico­gon Is­land in Car­les town in Iloilo prov­ince, of­fi­cials of the prov­inces of Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal, Iloilo, Cebu and Mas­bate and BFAR agreed to work jointly for the dec­la­ra­tion of the Visayan Sea as a fish­ery man­age­ment area.

Gov­er­nors Al­fredo Marañon Jr. of Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal and Arthur De­fen­sor of Iloilo signed the covenant while Cebu Gov. Hi­lario Da­vide III was rep­re­sented by Bal­tazar Tri­bunalo, Cebu pro­vin­cial en­vi­ron­ment and nat­u­ral re­sources of­fi­cer.

No rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Mas­bate was able to at­tend but the prov­ince was still part of the covenant, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Raul Ba­nias, Iloilo pro­vin­cial ad­min­is­tra­tor who at­tended the event.

Agri­cul­ture Un­der­sec­re­tary Ed­uardo Gong­ona, BFAR na­tional di­rec­tor, rep­re­sented the agency.

The agree­ment called for col­lab­o­ra­tion in pro­tect­ing and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the 10,000-square me­ter Visayan Sea.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments and BFAR cited in the covenant the need to con­serve the area’s marine re­sources for “both present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions” of Filipinos.

BFAR agreed to pro­vide ves­sels ded­i­cated to mon­i­tor­ing, con­trol and sur­veil­lance ac­tiv­i­ties in the Visayan Sea, al­lo­cate funds and as­sign tech­ni­cal staff.

The agency will also spear­head ef­forts in pre­par­ing fish­ery man­age­ment pro­grams for the Visayan Sea with the sup­port of pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments and other stake­hold­ers.

The Visayan Sea is con­sid­ered as among the coun­try’s rich­est fish­ing grounds which are be­ing threat­ened by il­le­gal fish­ing.

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