POSTSCRIPT / June 10, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Don’t confuse BFAR, Coast Guard functions

FOCUS NEEDED: Some congressmen concerned over unabated poaching in Philippine waters are pushing a bill, now approved on second reading, giving the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources stronger enforcement powers to check the intrusion.

Why not give instead more stern police powers, modern equipment and better trained personnel to the Coast Guard? Focus each agency on its expertise and configuration.

The BFAR should stick to research and development as well as the promotion and management of the aquaculture industry, while the Coast Guard focuses on patrolling the shoreline and offshore areas and enforcing applicable laws and procedures.

The protection of our shoreline, which is twice as long as that of the United States, should be assigned to the Coast Guard so the BFAR (ultimately the aquaculture department) can concentrate on enhanced food technology and security.

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AQUACULTURE DEP’T: The food production assignment of the BFAR is already tough as it is. In fact, that job is so big that it can justify the bureau’s being upgraded into a full-blown aquaculture department as a parallel to the agriculture department.

Simplified, the usual Filipino diet is rice and fish. That fact alone, which is lore to school children, is an indication of how crucial are agriculture and aquaculture as twin food security concerns.

And considering that we are an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, aquaculture — which covers inland and marine fisheries — should be attended to by a full-blown department.

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DIVIDE THE WORK: Let us not saddle the BFAR with police functions that are not its core tasks. Just assign technical BFAR personnel to every Coast Guard patrol that goes out.

When a patrol catches poachers or illegal fishers, the processing can be assisted on board by the BFAR technicians and on land by the DILG and the justice department – with elements of the national police and the prosecution service.

The proposed upgraded fines and prison terms under House Bill 4536 amending RA 8550 can be incorporated into the working template of the justice department, not of the BFAR.

Because it has been neglected, the BFAR has lagged in research and development. Its prized technical experts have been pirated (like the DoST’s underpaid weather forecasters) by other countries, private entities and international agencies.

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SSS NIGHTMARES: Our Postscript last Sunday on our horrible experience with the Social Security System elicited reactions from readers with similar stories.

A sample is Gundilino L. Faelnar of Iligan City, a retired Overseas Filipino Worker and an SSS member since 1978. He said:

“When I attempted to file my claim for retirement benefits, I was surprised to know that SSS has only a record of my premium contributions starting in 1991. My contributions from August 1978 to December 1990 were missing.

“I was advised by SSS Iligan City branch to request for manual verification so my record could then be updated. I did as advised, but was informed that manual verification will take two years.

“I also came to know that somebody has applied for a salary loan using my SSS number and collected P3,000.”

(FDP: Exactly what happened to me when an impostor claimed benefits and, with the connivance of SSS insiders, had me declared dead and sent a woman posing as my widow to collect death payments.}

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SAME LAMENT: Another bitter pensioner is the 79-year-old father of our colleague Ashley Manabat of Punto Central Luzon, vice president of the Capampangan in Media Inc. He has the same lament regarding unrecorded service and slashed pension.

Ashley’s father, Jose Manalo Manabat, had four years of service chopped off, and his pension knocked down to only a third of that of his juniors in the US Navy civilian service where he spent most of his productive years.

He complains that after serving as a regular employee for 23 years, 20 of which were even acknowledged by a USN commendation, the SSS recognized only 19 years. Yet some of his juniors who were casuals were credited with more than 20 years and given three times his pension.

(FDP: In my case I am still awaiting news that the crooks who have accessed my files, declared me dead and collected benefits in my name have been thrown in jail.)

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BAD SPORTS NEWS: Chess grandmaster Wesley So, 21, has applied to become an American because, he said, his Filipino citizenship is getting in the way of his dream of becoming world champion.

In a letter to president Butch Pichay of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, So said: “I have filed the paperwork to switch federation to the US last year. I respectfully ask that you grant me this opportunity and consent my transfer.” His letter was posted on the blog site of his coach Susan Polgar.

Last month, So made it to the Top 15 in the world after ruling the Capablanca Memorial in Cuba. He said turning American may give him a chance he could not get by staying Filipino of getting to be a top 10 player, and perhaps win the World Championship crown.

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SAME STORY: The same money issue dogs Michael Christian Martinez, 18, the Filipino figure skater who placed fifth at the 2013 World Junior Championships and the first from the tropics to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

Malou Tiquia of Publicus Asia Inc. relays reports that Martinez is being wooed by another country offering naturalization and wider opportunities for honing his skill and artistry and winning bigger Olympic glories on ice – but under its flag.

The stories of So and Martinez highlight the inadequacy of government support for athletes of Olympic caliber. They suffer from the lack of program, concern and funding. And to think that billions upon billions are routinely stolen from public coffers.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 10 2014)

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