Fishpen operators defy mayor’s order

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DAGUPAN CITY, Pangasinan: The city’s Bantay Ilog Task Force that is in charge of demolishing illegal fishpens along the river spanning five barangay (villages) here admitted they are facing trouble because some owners refuse to accept a letter of Mayor Belen Fernandez ordering them to remove their fishpens after lapse of their agreement.

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City Agriculture Office head Emma Molina, whose office created the task force, said the fishpen owners demanded a court order, not a notice from the mayor, while others received the letter-notice but refused to comply.

Some operators told The Manila Times that they will only remove their fishpens once the court issues an order directing them to stop their operation and dismantle their own fishpens.

The operators also alleged that they paid thousands of pesos to the city agriculture office before they start their business.

They, however, refused to name who received the payments.

Earlier, Fernandez confirmed that some illegal fishpen owners have begun employing deceptive means to continue their operations amid the city government’s current campaign to rid the city’s rivers and tributaries of pollutants that caused siltation.

She personally saw last November 30 that some operators have resorted to installing “fake dikes” to hide their illegal operations, during an inspection with City Assessor Roland Suni and the Bantay Ilog Task Force to validate claims that pieces of property along the river indeed have titles.

A fishpen owner, she said, enclosed his pens with old tires and planted mangroves on them to make it appear that his structure is within his titled fishponds.

“Although some are now building fake dikes, it won’t work with us because we have the original cadastral map showing the location of the private pieces of property,” according to Fernandez.

She said notices were sent to about 50 owners of the illegal fishpens as well as fishpens enclosed by fake dikes.

She said some 690 fish pens have been demolished since 2013.

The mayor, however, did not indicate whether charges will be filed against the fishpen owners who continued to operate beyond the October 30, 2016 deadline.

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