AT A GLANCE
- Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada is batting for a measure that seeks to make official “sea wardens” or “Bantay Dagat” volunteers.
Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada is batting for a measure that seeks to make official “sea wardens” or “Bantay Dagat” volunteers.
Under Estrada’s proposed measure, local government units (LGUs) shall be mandated to allocate regular funding for the benefits and incentives of the sea wardens and their operational requirements.
Once enacted, the volunteers will serve as force multipliers to civilian law enforcement agencies protecting municipal waters of coastal municipalities from abuse and destruction.
The national government, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), will provide an annual subsidy to local governments that will establish their own Bantay Dagat groups.
“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,” said Estrada, is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.
They will also receive the same protection and support as other law enforcement officers,” Estrada said in Senate Bill (SB) No. 2464, or the proposed Bantay Dagat Welfare and Incentives Act.
Estrada noted that despite the collective efforts of various government agencies, numerous illegal activities in the country’s waters go unnoticed.
“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 said.
By deputizing accredited Bantay Dagat volunteers or sea wardens who have undergone training programs in coastal and fisheries law enforcement, Estrada said they can enhance the capacities of civilian law enforcement agencies in safeguarding the country’s waters against unlawful and criminal activities.
“They can also enhance our capabilities for nautical patrols against foreign incursions,” he also said.
Estrada likewise proposed the institutionalization of incentives and benefits for Bantay Dagat volunteers, acknowledging the risks that the work poses to their lives.
He said individuals accredited as Bantay Dagat should be entitled to insurance and PhilHealth coverage, hazard and subsistence allowances, civil service eligibility, preferential access to loans, training opportunities, and career enrichment programs.
Free legal services should also be provided in cases of coercion, interference, and other civil and criminal cases filed by or against Bantay Dagat volunteers arising from the performance of their duties, the senator added.
“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 added.
Estrada emphasized that deputized fisherfolk will also serve as frontliners in protecting the country’s coastal, marine, and fisheries resources.