A nongovernment organization underscored on Tuesday the need to strictly enforce vessel monitoring mandated by the amended fisheries code to deter illegal commercial fishing activities in municipal waters.
In a news statement, Liza Osorio of the Philippine Earth Justice Center said commercial fishing in municipal waters remains prevalent nationwide.
The 15-kilometer municipal fishing grounds from the shoreline is exclusive for small fishers. Commercial fishing activities in these areas are banned under the law.
She said the sheer size of coastal waters needed to be monitored by police and coast guard personnel, including local “Bantay-Dagat” patrols, made it impossible to monitor and stop illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters.
She said the only way to systematically and effectively do this is through the implementation of the vessel monitoring mechanism (VMM) under the Amended Fisheries Code.
The provision of the law on VMM should have been implemented two years ago.
The implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 10654—amending RA 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998—signed on September 22, 2015, requires that VMM vessel monitoring technology be installed in all commercial fishing vessels of 3.1 gross tons and above.
Under the Implementing regulations, and within one year from its effectivity, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources an shall determine the appropriate vessel monitoring technology and the corresponding schedule to cover the vessels from 3.1 to 30 gross tonnage, upon consultation with stakeholders.
“Two years have passed, and we are still awaiting a policy or a circular from BFAR on the aforesaid rules,” said Osorio.
A good example of commercial fishermen depriving their small- time fishmen of their daily catch and livelihood in municipal waters is at the Tañon Strait, between Cebu and Negros islands.
The Tañon Strait, which forms part of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, is supposed to be for the exclusive use of municipal fishermen, but commercial fishing vessels continue to raid this rich fishing ground.
A total of 35 small fishermen associations belonging to the Tañon Strait Fisherfolks Federation recently urged BFAR Region 7 (Central Visayas) Director Nilo Katada to speed up the crafting and promulgation of the rules requiring all commercial vessels transiting and docking in Tañon Strait to install appropriate VMM device as required by RA 10654.