Press Release
November 22, 2020


Senator Risa Hontiveros is pushing for incentives and benefits for "sea wardens" all over the Philippines.

The senator filed Senate Bill No. 1919, or the Bantay Dagat Welfare and Incentives Act, to give due recognition to accredited "Bantay Dagat" volunteers, who are mostly municipal fisherfolks who work with local and national agencies in conserving, protecting, and managing the country's marine resources.

"Panahon na na mabigyan sila ng karapat-dapat na suporta. These volunteers receive no regular honoraria and are rarely given insurance and coverage benefits despite the hazards they face, the time spent protecting municipal waters, and the loss of income opportunities," Hontiveros said.

The bill will entitle the volunteers to insurance and Philhealth coverage, hazard allowance, subsistence allowance, training and career enrichment programs, and access to loans.

The bill also empowers any Bantay Dagat to enjoy security of tenure: they shall not be removed or terminated except for just and valid causes as determined by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. It also mandates local government to allocate regular funding for Bantay Dagat volunteers and their operational requirements.

"Our fisherfolk communities are at the frontlines of climate change. Sila ang unang-unang naapektuhan ng pagbabago sa klima, pati na ng mga negatibong epekto nito sa ating kalikasan. This gives all the more reason, to not only recognize their noble work, but also to provide tangible support. Bigyan natin ng dignidad ang kanilang ginagawa para sa ating bayan," the senator said.

Hontiveros also underscored the importance of installing Bantay Dagat volunteers especially withIn municipalities along contested waters, such as the West Philippine Sea, to aid in government surveillance efforts against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. The senator added that government must also beef up its capacity to ward off incursions in the WPS.

The Philippines lost P200 billion worth of marine resources due to China's adventurism in the WPS. "Dahil sa mga artificial islands na itinayo ng Tsina sa ating karagatan, nasira ang mga reef ecosystems, ang tirahan ng mga isda. What used to be a bountiful area for our fisherfolk is now gone," the senator explained.

"The Bantay Dagat bill is an important step towards encouraging and giving recognition to the importance of community participation in the protection of our fisheries. But government must further arm itself through modernizing and upping our defense capability towards the protection of Philippine waters. Nakahanda ang mga komunidad magbantay, palakasin din ang pagbabantay ng gobyerno," Hontiveros said.

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