Even with fear and doubt, Noel Bergantin, designated  Fisheries Coordinator/Bantay Dagat Enforcer chose to support and participate as a Bantay Dagat Frontliner to prevent the COVID 19 from entering their municipality. Chaired by the Municipal Agriculture Officer (MAO) Florizel Lim, they drafted guidelines to secure the boarders of the eastern and western coast of San Fernando where the 125-hectare Municipal Fish Sanctuary and Marine Reserve of PRDP GEF is located.

“Makaharadlok an sitwasyon naton nyana, dili ta nakikita ini na virus na aton kalaban kaya doble an pagahimat na dapat himuon, dili ta mailagan kon kita tatamaan, maaraman ta na lang kon kita may sakit na. Kasabay sani na virus, ginasamantala man san mga eligalista na naka quarantine an mga tao, minsan ginakulbaan man kami kay dili namon aram kon nano na klase an eligalista an amon makikita pero ginahimo guihapon namon an amon trabaho kay dili lang an pamilya namon an amon ginaprotektahan kundi an buong San Fernando. (Our present situation is scary, we cannot see this virus, so we need to take double precautions. We cannot foresee if the virus will infect us. We will only discover it once we are sick. Illegal fishermen are taking advantage of the situation while most of the people are staying at their homes.  Sometimes we are also scared because we don’t know what this illegal fishermen can do, but we still do our jobs not just for our family but also for the whole San Fernando)Bergantin shared.

Bantay Dagat Frontliners  consist of 67 members which are divided into two groups: the foot and the seaborn patrolling team. They are tasked to survey the Eastern and Western Coast 24/7 to prevent people from other municipalities from entering the island as they might be a potential carrier of the virus. They only allow agriculture and fisheries products to be brought into their municipality.

According to Bergantin, they are more cautious in looking after their Marine Protected Area (MPA) because the number of fishes is dramatically increasing which entices fishermen from outside the municipality to fish within their  territorial waters  even though its illegal. But with the strict monitoring of the assigned deputized fish wardens, no one can enter the MPA.

Recently, the proponent group received 2 units of Bantay Dagat Patrol Boat from Philippine Rural Development  Project – Global Environment Facility (PRDP-GEF) which they can also use for patrolling the municipal boarders. Other supplies such us Bantay Dagat Uniform, geotagging device, diving gears, underwater cameras, marker buoys, binoculars, search light and 2-way handheld radio will be delivered after the general community quarantine (GCQ) is lifted.

“Isa pong karangalan sa aming mga bantay dagat na maglingkod sa gobyerno lalo na sa krisis na kinakaharap natin ngayon. (It is a great honor for us deputized fish wardens to serve our government in the midst of the crisis that we face today) Bergantin added.” Even with the threat of the spread of Corona Virus,  PRDP-GEF continues to implement  measures to protect  coastal and marine resource base in targeted project areas through biodiversity conservation and fisheries resources management with the help of the Local Government Units (LGUs). (Michelle Angela G. Alfigura, DA-PRDP RPCO 5 InfoACE Unit)