Banias shoots own foot on nylon shell issue

The more Provincial Administrator Raul Banias talks about how he is trying to enforce the law by directing the arrest of nylon shell gatherers in his hometown of Concepcion, Iloilo, the deeper the grave he is digging becomes. It doesn’t help that he has a plagiarist as back-up singer on stage. Their sound is becoming more and more like a voice from the grave.

In as many times that Banias spoke on the issue over Bombo Radyo Iloilo, so too has the number of times his reasons for stopping the nylon shell harvesting have changed. One is tempted to ask him point-blank: “Ano guid bala ang tuod, Doctor Banias?” That’s because each time he is interviewed, even the ordinary subsistence fisherman in Concepcion could glean his blatant lies. He can’t even stick to just one ground to justify his position.

This morning, Banias tried once again to repair his damaged image and, as expected, he stumbled with his distorted logic. It didn’t help that he was confronted with information that two other LGUs — Carles and Ajuy — already have existing ordinances regulating the use of compressors for shell fishing.

And the Provincial Legal Office last week came out with a new opinion, saying there can be no stopping the use of compressors in Concepcion and anywhere else. Maybe aware of this, Banias tried to justify the latest apprehensions by saying these fishermen transgressed the defined marine sanctuaries of the municipality.

Banias apparently anchors his position on the old ordinance designating the municipal waters of Concepcion as marine sanctuary where any form of fishing is prohibited. He refuses to accept the fact that the new Sangguniang Bayan had enacted a new ordinance redefining the metes and bounds of the marine sanctuaries and the areas where nylon shell harvesting is allowed. Of course, he avoids explaining why, despite the existence of that ordinance, nylon shell gathering took place during the last four years.

It’s not only in Carles and Ajuy where the use of compressors is allowed. Other coastal LGUs in Negros Occidental across the strait have also adopted similar regulations to enable their people to harvest this high-valued shell which appears to be endemic to the Visayas Sea marine environment. God has endowed these LGUs with a good resource, and it is a duty of the local government to make it accessible to hardworking fishermen.

By this time, of course, the real motive of Banias is crystal clear. He made millions from the seas of Concepcion, first as vice mayor, and then as municipal mayor, and Presidential Assistant. When Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor made him head of the Bantay Dagat, it was like, to use a phrase from Atty. Pet Melliza, giving the key to the blood bank to Dracula. He had the power to monopolize the fish and shell business, and this ordinance was a stumbling block to his greedy agenda.

All these years, Banias wasn’t really a true public servant. He made a killing out of public service. Concepcion remains a poor municipality where poverty incidence is high. Mayor Milliard Villanueva wants to turn things around by giving poor fishermen a share of the municipality’s wealth. It might not be enough to make them as rich as Banias, but at least it will give them a better quallity of life.

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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