Estrada pushes ‘Bantay Dagat’

(MANILA TIMES) SEN. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada pushed for the institutionalization of “Bantay Dagat” volunteers or sea wardens as force multipliers to civilian law enforcement agencies in protecting the country’s waters from abuse and destruction.

Estrada, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security and author of Senate Bill 2464 or the proposed “Bantay Dagat Welfare and Incentives Act,” said that despite the collective efforts of various government agencies, numerous illegal activities in Philippine waters go unnoticed due to the limited number of military and coast guard vessels.

He said Bantay Dagat is a viable solution to the problem.

“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, and those committing violations under fishery and environmental laws, and to confiscate illegal paraphernalia. They will also receive the same protection and support as other law enforcement officers,” the senator said, noting the volunteer force can also enhance the country’s defense against territorial threats.

“They can also enhance our capabilities for nautical patrols against foreign incursions,” Estrada said.

The senator has proposed the institutionalization of incentives and benefits for Bantay Dagat volunteers.

“By providing them with benefits and incentives, we are recognizing the commitment and dedication of the Bantay Dagat and their crucial role in safeguarding our waters against illegal fishing and ecological degradation,” he said.

Under Estrada’s measure, local government units shall be mandated to allocate regular funding for the benefits and incentives of 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 own Bantay Dagat groups.