San Miguel Bay fisherfolk, LGU buck BFAR transfer

By Danny P. Aureus

The Pederasyon ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisa ng San Miguel Bay (PEMMA-SMB), Inc., and the local government unit (LGU) of Calabanga, Camarines Sur have expressed their firm opposition to the transfer of the regional office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) from Bula, Camarines Sur to Ligao City in Albay.


PEMMA-SMB chairman Charlie Capricho said his group composed of fisherfolk from San Miguel Bay, Ragay Gulf, Lagonoy Gulf and Lake Buhi, is strongly against the transfer of the BFAR regional office to Ligao City.


For his part, Calabanga Councilor Levi Sta Ana said he will sponsor a resolution during the Feb. 15 session of the municipal council expressing the opposition of the LGU to the proposed transfer.


Sta. Ana said there are plenty of fisherfolk in Camarines Sur and it will entail additional expenses for them to go to Albay to transact business with BFAR there.


He lamented the plan to transfer the BFAR regional office to Albay, considering the fact most regional offices of government agencies are already in Albay.


Aside from BFAR, whose regional office is presently based in Fabrica, Bula, Camarines Sur, only two other government agencies, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Irrigation Administration (NIA) have their regional offices in the province.


The national government should focus its efforts in helping small fisherfolk instead of spending millions of pesos to transfer the BFAR office in Albay, Sta. Ana said.


He also foresees the dislocation of many BFAR employees who are mostly residents of Camarines Sur.


The proposed transfer of BFAR office to Albay should be submitted for public consultation, Sta. Ana said.


BFAR Bicol director Nelson Bien, who is from Albay province, initiated the proposed transfer.


Bien said the transfer of the BFAR regional office to Albay is mandated by law as it is the regional government center.


On Feb. 20, last year, Biuen and Ligao City Mayor Patricia Gonzales-Alsua signed an agreement whereby the Ligao City government donated a 2,000 square meter lot that will be the site of the new BFAR Bicol regional Office.


The present BFAR regional office in Bula, Camarines sits on a three hectare lot.


Under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA), some P10 million is initially allocated for the construction of the new BFAR regional office.


Bien said his decision to transfer the BFAR office to Albay is because it will serve as a strategic hub for the zagency’s stakeholders in the region.