Following the killing of a Bantay Dagat chief in early September, another Bantay Dagat leader from Batangas was also shot dead Wednesday night, September 30.
Santiago Dulay, 52 years old and head of the Nasugbu Bantay Dagat group, was on his way home from the Nasugbu municipal hall when he was shot by two motorcycle-riding men. He died on the spot after sustaining two gunshot wounds, one on the chest and one on the head.
The victim, widely known as Ka Tiago, was a Bantay Dagat (Sea Patrol) member for eleven years, serving most of those years as the local head of the volunteer fishery law enforcement group.
He is the second Bantay Dagat to be shot dead in Batangas within a month. Marcel de Chavez, 47 years old, head of the Bantay Dagat group in San Juan, was also shot by still unidentified men last September 9 and died after sustaining 8 gunshot wounds.
"We have worked with Ka Tiago and his group for many years and he was one of the most active and effective Bantay Dagat members in Batangas,” said Romeo Trono, Country Program Director of Conservation International-Philippines (CI). CI has been working with local governments and other partners in strengthening conservation efforts in the Verde Island Passage.
The Bantay Dagat groups of Batangas work together through the recently-formalized Batangas Bantay Dagat Network, which counts 12 municipalities and Batangas City as members. Batangas is part of the Verde Island Passage, a recognized center of marine biodiversity in the world.
However, since the San Juan and Nasugbu municipalities are located on opposite ends of the province’s borders – near the western and eastern edges of the Verde Island Passage – they face tougher challenges in guarding their waters against encroachers. The Bantay Dagat groups of the two municipalities are among the most active in apprehending illegal fishers in the Verde Island Passage.
In a meeting of the Batangas Bantay Dagat Network the day after the shooting, the network members agreed to seek a dialogue with the local government officials, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and law enforcement agencies to discuss future efforts in fishery law implementation.
Conservation International-Philippines expressed hopes that the loss of the two leaders will not lead to a permanent vacuum in fishery law enforcement efforts.
“Ka Tiago’s death, especially so soon after Ka Marcel's, is definitely a great blow, but we hope that their life's work and sacrifices will serve to fuel inspiration towards more determined efforts and support for fishery law enforcement and marine conservation in the Verde Island Passage,” Trono further said.
“Every Filipino should appreciate and recognize the significant contribution of our Bantay Dagat members in securing our biological wealth and natural heritage as well as ecosystem services that is the basic underpinning for poverty alleviation and human well-being.”