"A multi-sectoral and -agency approach with the provincial government pushing from behind."
Name any illegal fishing activity-dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, fine-mesh net, baby trawl, commercial fishing, ring net, light boat, fish aggregation devices and for sure, it was perpetrated in the rich waters of Bohol. Not surprisingly, the province's marine resources started to deteriorate. Coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves were destroyed and fish catch was on an alarming decline. Small fisherfolk, who depend largely and oftentimes solely on their trade, were the most affected by the situation. Helpless and indifferent, they believed that law enforcers are solely responsible for apprehending and arresting the perpetrators. On the other hand, authorities' efforts to curb the problem were disjointed and intermittent, and thus unsuccessful. Stopping illegal fishing was "a cat-and-mouse game" between law enforcers and illegal fishers; the latter just moved around the province while the law enforcers tried to catch up with them," according to Bohol Island: Its Coastal Environment Profile published in 2002. In 1997, a Bohol Environment Summit was held to address the issue of illegal fishing and the ineffectiveness of coastal law enforcement. Here, all stakeholders-the fisherfolk community, local and national government, the police and coastguards, and non-government organizations-sat down to identify solutions. All vowed to save Bohol's marine resources. The agreement led to the establishment of three Coastal Law Enforcement Councils (CLECs), which serve as managers and implementors of Bohol's coastal management program. Members of CLEC from various sectors are elected in a forum attended by representatives of all the local government units in the district. Their motto: "There is one set of law for everyone, big or small, influential or not, all cases filed in court holds true." CLEC is a "multisectoral and multi-agency approach with the provincial government pushing from behind... The CLECs, being composite, deter political intervention and manipulation," says Governor Erico Aumentado. People in the grassroots level gained a sense of ownership on the province's resources as well as trust and confidence in the justice system. They also imbibed an authentic concern for the value of sustainability.
Bohol is slowly but surely rebuilding its water resources. More than 100 fish sanctuaries have so far been set up, regular patrolling is conducted, and monitoring activities are in place. Governor Aumentado says coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves are coming back to life and fish stock is improving. Last year, the province was able to supply more than half of the fish requirements of the Central Visayas Region.
Bohol's dedication to the protection of its marine resources, and the environment as a whole, has not gone unnoticed. Last year, it was the first province in the entire Southeast Asian region to receive an ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management system. It was also earlier given the Blue Heart Award by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for "implementing a coastal management and best province-wide coastal law enforcement program". Bohol is also twice a recipient in the Gawad Galing Pook for projects relating to its environment.