Up to present, the lack of a clear policy guideline governing the process of Fishpond Lease Agreement- cancellation and Abandoned, Underdeveloped and Underutilized (AUUs) fishpond reversion to mangroves still remain as a crucial issue. Despite a Joint Administrative Order, the absence of coordination between DA-BFAR, DENR and DILG resulted to the non-resolution of AUUs that should have been reverted to mangroves. Because of this concern, NGOs for Fisheries Reform, Inc., conducted a Mangrove Regional Policy Forum at Ritz Tower de Leyte, Tacloban City last April 8, 2016. The purpose of the said forum includes the determination of the status of fishponds and mangroves in Region 8 and to identify possible interventions especially the formulation of a new inter-agency/multi-sectoral technical working group to address the inconsistencies and policy gaps between JMC 01 series of 2014, fishpond utilization and mangroves. However, the DA-BFAR Region 8, the one expected to convene and lead the technical working group was not able to attend the forum.
Severalcivil society organizations (CSOs) such as NFR havealready engaged a series of consultations to make an enabling law based on the recommendations of stakeholders. Based on several consultationswith key stakeholders, several issues were raised related to FLAcancellation and AUU reversionto mangroves. Most of these results include the primarylack of coordination of the agencies concerned thus, a multi-sectoral group composed of concerned government agencies, civil society organizations and academe suggestedto be established to ensure that existing laws and policies on AUUsas well asa clear policy guideline defining the jurisdictions and the process of FLA-cancellation and AUU mangrove reversion will be formulated, implemented and strictly enforced. It was also revealed in the forum as one of the underlying issues that the local government units and fishing communities are left out in the process of identification of areas that are applicable for reversion. For instance, in Maliwaliw, Salcedo, Eastern Samar, according to BFAR Region 8, the FLA has already been cancelled yet according to DENR Region 8, there was no official turnover from BFAR-8 to their office for physical reversion. Moreover, Sir Rogelio Padit of ESSU-Salcedo stated that the current status of the area is relatively unknown to them. He mentioned that there are claimants of the said area however, he is unsure whether these people were the previous FLA holders or the new applicants or just mere informal settlers who allegedly manage the place. Hence, proper documentation and on-the-ground assessment should have been conducted to ensure the clear and exact status of these AUUs. Likewise, the LGUsand local management councils should be made aware of their roles and responsibilities in the reversion of AUUs to mangroves.
As part of the planning session, the group agreed to tap BFAR-Region 8 as mandated by Draft Administrative Order 197-1 to convene the inter-agency technical working group along with the target activities such as municipal mangrove awareness campaign (selected municipalities with mangrove areas), Information, Education, Communication (IEC) on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation and mangrove rehabilitation on areas suitable for reversion.The DENR-Region 8 as well through Ma’am Mely Sumbeling presented on Mangrove Ecosystems and Mangrove-related laws and disclosed some of their upcoming activities for possible participation and involvement of interested organizations such as the Oceans Month in May to be held in Guiuan, Eastern Samar and international coastal clean-up in September.
Article written by Christian Salamida