‘Bantay data’ volunteers in every coastal LGU sought

(PNA) MANILA – Every coastal local government unit (LGU) shall have its community-based volunteer group, trained by the national government and non-government organizations if a measure filed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada is passed into law.

Estrada said Senate Bill 2464, or the “Bantay Dagat Welfare and Incentives Act,” seeks to mandate the Bantay Dagat or Sea Wardens to help the government protect the country’s marine wealth within its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone.

“While performing their duties and responsibilities, they shall be considered as agents of authority. As such, Bantay Dagat volunteers will be authorized to apprehend and arrest individuals engaged in illegal fishing, those committing violations under fishery and environmental laws, and to confiscate illegal paraphernalia,” he said.

He also proposed that Bantay Dagat volunteers receive the same protection and support as other law enforcement officers get.

“This is mainly due to the limited number of our military and coast guard vessels, restricting our government’s capacity to monitor and fully enforce our laws in our maritime territories,” he added.

To qualify as a Bantay Dagat volunteer, the applicant should be a Filipino citizen; registered and licensed fisherfolk; not less than 21 years but not more than 60 years of age; not have been convicted of any offense involving the violation of the Fisheries Code and related environmental laws; completed the Fishery Laws Enforcement Training for Bantay Dagat; and involved in coastal and fisheries management activities for at least three years.

Every volunteer shall have insurance and PhilHealth coverage; hazard allowance; subsistence allowance; night shift allowance; provided with training, education, and career enrichment; granted second-grade civil service eligibility after continuously rendering five years of service; free legal services; and preferential access to loans.

Under the proposed measure, LGUs shall be mandated to allocate regular funding for the benefits and incentives of the sea wardens and their operational requirements.

The national government, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, will provide an annual subsidy to local governments that will establish their Bantay Dagat groups. (PNA)