DEATH in Anilao

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Last June 24, as we approached Mapating, we chanced upon a small banca, “fishing” near the dive site. We did not pay much attention since we thought they were just line fishing. As we ascended to shallower depths at the end of our dive, Dave saw a dead blue triggerfish followed by a couple more of its kind, apparently victims of cyanide fishing. Puzzled as to why it was the only type of fish that died, I asked Virgil, our boatman, and he said that the triggerfish usually swims to shallower depths when there’s a current and this might have caused them to get poisoned when cyanide was released near the surface. He added that the small banca we saw earlier immediately left the area when we were already underwater.

The following day, we went to Bahura for our last dive. There were nine small bancas “fishing” near the dive site. Upon touch down to around 30 feet, Dave signaled me to move closer. I saw him holding a dead baby black tip shark There was a small hole on its belly and its flesh had scratches. I held it and it was still soft to touch. Just like the previous day, the small bancas left when we were already underwater.

As divers, we have been paying the Conservation Fee faithfully. Majority of the collected fee are spent on Bantay Dagat operations which is supposed to deter illegal and destructive fishing in Mabini’s municipal waters and the establishment and maintenance of mooring buoys in dive sites thereby protecting the reefs from irresponsible anchorage.

I saw the Bantay Dagat only once since January of this year. Mapating, Bahura and Beatrice had missing buoys and it was previously reported to the proper municipal authorities by no less than Virgil but no action had been taken by them. I have sent an email to the project manager of WWF Philippines in Anilao about the said incident in the hope that they’ll do something about it.

To make matters worst, that same day, as I was getting ready to hit the shower before leaving Anilao, I received a devastating news that a former student and sportclimber died last Friday, June 22, a day before his 23rd birthday. I was shocked and deeply saddened by the news. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me as I read the text messages. This can’t be… I just saw him a few days ago, I think the day before he died. He had a sad look in his eyes and seem to have lost weight but I did not mention it to him. Instead I asked him what his plans were since he recently graduated. He said he didn’t want to work in Manila and would rather work in Los Baños, his hometown. I clearly remember meeting him for the first time, right here in Anilao, in the very same resort (Planet Dive) I was staying at that weekend. He was accompanying his uncle and a couple of cousins who were on their check out dive with Dave. So in a way, he is part of the Diveshoppe family by affinity. He was very shy, he did not even join us in the outrigger, nor go out to swim or snorkel. He just opted to stay in his room and went out only when it was time to eat He said that water was not his thing. He eventually became a varsity sportclimber and a very good one and we became close in a way because I was the moderator of the team. I soon discovered that he’s a very responsible and dependable young man. He even gave up the sport he loved because he was already in his senior year and it was just too tough to balance studies and play.

May you rest in peace dearest Orson… orson-paz.jpg


  1. I am torn between my understanding for the plight of the bad fishermen and an outrage for the irresponsibility of the bantay dagat and the government.
    I know how difficult their lives are as fishermen, but divers pay the government to protect Anilao so they owe me! Most of the time the fishermen do not know the evils in the things they do. When they do know, they keep doing it anyway because times are hard and they have families to feed. If I hadn’t spent so much time with Poly and Virgil and Elmer, I never would’ve known how difficult it can be. Even with education, it cannot be resolved. They need to feed their families. In desperation they ravage the waters.
    Do you think we can build a foundation of some sort for livelihood projects in Anilao? ah..I know a lot of women sew designs on barong sold in tagaytay..(here I go and my ideal universe..)

  2. It would be a tall order to organize a foundation, but if there’s a will there’s a way. Calling on our dear readers, any ideas on how to start a foundation or on how to help alleviate the living conditions of the fisher folks in Mabini?

  3. I am dissapointed that this continues to happen in Anilao. Are the fishermen locals or imports? I guess that they are of the notion that since we have entered the Southwestern monsoon, diving has been limited, hence they are free and undetected to do as they please. Although the authorities have been informed, it will ultimately be our responsibility to help monitor against this activity.

  4. We too had this experience at beatrice area. About 9-12 small “speed” bancas “fishing” in the area. We hesitated to take pictures as some of them really looked menacing – they were wearing improvised ski masks with eye and mouth holes. We also aborted the dive afraid of cyanide, dynamite or net entanglement.

  5. Hi Ms. Paz! I’m not sure if you remember me but I used to be in the sportclimbing team as well, more loyal to volleyball 🙂 The link to this article was sent to me by a fellow diver, reading the first part about the cruelty of such fishermen really breaks my heart. We continually give efforts and support fundings to assure that these precious resources are well protected. Please do let me know how we can help, my dive group has always been keen in helping in whatever way we can.

    Shocked me even more to find out that it was you who wrote the article and that it was orson pa who you were talking about. It really shocks me, nagabot pa kame in the team and i remember selling him my harness pa in his second year i think. Please extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  6. I am happy to hear of your vigilance. I will be forwarding a copy of this thread to the municipality of tingloy. Just for clarification, Anilao is in Mabini while Beatrice, Mapating and Bahura is under the Municipality of Tingloy.

    P50 of the P100 you pay goes to Tingloy as User Fee to help protect the area.

  7. Of course, I still remember you Raine. Do include Orson in your prayers. Will keep in touch as we will need volunteers if we do pursue the setting up of the foundation.
    I am overwhelmed and so glad that there are lots of concerned divers out there. We really need to be vigilant and must not hesitate in reporting such incidents. It would be a good idea to take pictures of these small bancas, but first we have to take into consideration our safety ( At that time, it did not occur to me to take pictures of the fishermen).
    Thanks Joel for the clarification and for bringing this to the attention of the concerned Municipality (Tingloy) 🙂

  8. Yes actually I do know of how to have a real , honest to goodness livlihood program. In San Pedro bay Leyte, there is a group of ex dynamite fishermen who formed a cooperative. They set up payaos (we divers can set up a foundation or a fund for thise, I would prefer to see our 100 go directly to this program) and since they were the ones that set this up, they “own” it.

    Whoever is a member of the fishing coop can handline fish the payaos anytime, bec the small fishes that inhabit the payaos attract the bigger pelagics. The coop though owns a fishing boat with a net so every day they harvest about 3 payaos. The catch is sold at a low price to the villagers 9 15 or 25 pesos a kilo) and the rest is bought by “dayo” who sell it at the market.

    What happens is that those who put up the payaos are the ones who report whenever they see any illegal fishing that is going on. But I’m not so sure this would work in Tingloy, do they even have a bantay dagat program? BTW the fishes you saw were most probably victims not of cyanide but dynamite fishing.

    The mechanics of the payao program are a little more complex but I can explain it further. I am helping a private co implement it in Bataan where dynamite fishing is rampant. Howver the key to this is thatthe coop members have to be matapang. believe me, even if we put up the payao project in tingloy, those who have been doing the dynamite fishing will not stop. what will happen is they will dynamite the payaos.

    Asa group we also have to stop this daily fee system if what it is supposed to be for (conservation) is not being done.


  9. The Payao or FAD (fish aggregating device) program looks promising. The DA-BFAR have piloted the biggest payao project in Saranggani just recently. So how do we go about starting one for the marginal fisherfolks of Anilao?

  10. The municipality of Tingloy and Mabini have new mayors. I have already presented my courtesy call to the new Mayor of Mabini. I have also submitted a situational report about the concerns of the divers and resorts. I will be meeting the Mayor elect of Tingloy this week.

    Again, I can only do so much. I think there still must be critical mass. A good example if the Philippine motorcycle association where they are taking into their hands to object against a new ordinance making it mandatory for motorcylce riders to place the plate numbers of the motorcycles they are riding on their helmets.

    I think we should do the same.

  11. i am not yet a certified diver,but having dived a couple of times(both intro dives), and having seen not just the potential of diving to bring in tourists,but also the appreciation that the country’s rich marine resources is indeed a blessing–i share the same thoughts regarding the issues.. and i have been wondering,can’t thedivers in the philippines be organized intosay a national-level organization for leverage when dealing with issues, and when lolbbying for policy support on issues and concerns?

    i agree with mr. uichico’s proposal that divers should do the same,taking on a more active stance in dealing with issues. if the divers are organized into clubs, the government will listen, am sure.

    re: foundations for livelihood projects for the communities, there is actually a project by the Philippine commission on sports scuba diving,in partnership with the National anti-poverty commission calledthe Sisid is a convergence program.among the projects is the community based monitoring system, where the poorpeople in coastal communities are mapped out,so thatstrategic interventions could be designed to address gaps.. perhaps mam, if you could get in touch with the PCSSD,they can identify that particular area as a pilot area (withtheir industry in doing barong as a good form of intervention)

    PCSSD’s executive director is ASEC. cynthia may,as you please,write her a letter about the said concerns. thePCSSD afterall,is mandated to protect the marine reserves in the country,especially for areas with high tourism significance.

    a representative each from the denr-cmmo, and from BFAR have seats in the PCSSD board. the said issue could perhaps be tackled in one of the meetings of the board. that way, they will realize that there are people who are willing to take on a more active stance in dealing with this sad plight.

  12. Thank you for the valuable information you shared. I will definitely get in touch with the PCSSD through their executive director and perhaps the issue can be tackled in one of their meetings 🙂 With regards to an organization for scuba divers in the Philippines, we are trying to revive the Concerned Divers for the Philippines. Hopefully this will start the spark that will make divers take a more proactive stance.

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