DA chief signs IRR of anti-illegal fishing law

DESPITE the opposition of fishermen’s groups to an amended law that aims to prevent illegal fishing, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said on Friday that he has signed its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

The signing of the IRR came after Republic Act (RA) 10654, which amended RA 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code, took effect in March.

Alcala said the 89-page IRR provisions on RA 10654 are the result of the 20-day drafting process involving the Department of Agriculture (DA), academe, non-governmental organizations and fishermen.

“We continue to encourage everyone to support the law that aims to safeguard our seas in order to achieve sustainable fisheries,” he said in a statement.

The IRR covers specific procedures on how to impose the penalties to fishermen who committed illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities. It also lays down the guidelines on the enforcement of various fisheries-conservation measures.

One of its salient features is the application of Vessel Monitoring Measures (VMM), which only applies to Philippine-flagged commercial fishing vessels operating outside the country’s waters and commercial fishing vessels of 30 gross tons and above which are operating in the Philippine waters.

The implementation schedule of the VMM application is specified in the IRR.

The IRR on the Amended Fisheries Code also includes a provision on the use of active gears, such as purse seine, locally known as  pangulong and ring net, or taksay by small-and medium-scale commercial fishing vessels which may be allowed to operate up to 15 kilometers off the shoreline, subject to certain conditions prescribed by the law.  The IRR will take effect 15 days after its publication in newspapers of general circulation.  The Bureau of Fisheries  and Aquatic Resources said it will conduct a two-month “extensive” information and education campaign to ensure that the public is aware of the provisions of the amended law.

Some commercial fishermen and traders earlier staged a fish holiday to protest the stiff penalties prescribed by the amended law against those who will violate its provisions.


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