Anti-illegal fishing czar


Iloilo 1st district board member Gerardo “Gerry” Flores hit provincial administrator Raul Banias, M.D., in the jugular last Wednesday when he exposed the conflict of interest he had in the illegal fishing issue, especially in the 5th district of Iloilo. Flores told the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that Banias ought to stay away from enforcement of illegal fishing laws, because it won’t look good that he’s one of the biggest fish traders in the province. In fact, Banias is so rich now that he owns three Mang Inasal franchises. That wealth was drawn from the municipal waters of Concepcion, and political power was instrumental in making that happen.

Banias’s own track record shows a poor enforcement of the fisheries laws in his municipality while he was municipal mayor. The operators of prohibited fishing methods like “hulbot-hulbot”, “super-hulbot” and “palupad” were his biggest suppliers of fish products until Governor Niel Tupas Sr. came along to put a stop to their destructive activities. I remember Gov. Tupas conducted a community dialogue in Concepcion sometime in 2002; Tupas had grown frustrated that the LGU, which was supposed to be the chief enforcer of the fisheries code, looked the other way when these vessels operated. Banias put up a stance of passive resistance. He didn’t say he didn’t support Gov. Tupas; but neither did he manifest enthusiasm for the tough stance adopted by the former governor.

Indeed, it was shameless for Banias to tag himself as “anti-illegal fishing czar”. The conflict of interest is very clear. It was like giving the key to heaven to the devil himself. He could do whatever he wanted to enhance his business. He could give illegal fishers wider latitude in carrying out their activities; reports from the island barangays in Concepcion attest to this. In fact, during the period July 1 to December 31, 2010, the apprehension of illegal fishing operators went down dramatically.

So much has been said about the expose supposedly made by Banias on the “kotong” or extortion activities of four policemen in the 5th district. What is not known is that three of these policemen assigned to the Provincial Bantay Dagat were personal picks of Banias. These policemen were subject of complaints from municipal mayors about their extortion activities in the rich seas of the 5th district. The fourth policeman was assigned in Concepcion who was about to be removed by Mayor Milliard Villanueva from the municipal bantay dagat because he, too, was engaging in extortion.

When Banias got wind of the complaints against the three “kotong” cops, he made it appear that they were operating with the fourth cop and pre-empted the Iloilo Provincial Pollice Office (IPPO) in reporting their nefarious activities to the media. Banias wanted to appear “clean” and washed his hands off on the activities of his own men. He projected himself as an “anti-illegal fishing czar” who countenanced no hanky-panky among his men. Too bad for him, his story-line is burned-out. Nobody will believe him.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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