House OKs bill to strengthen marine protection
MANILA – The House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill 4536, which seeks to amend Republic Act 8550 to strengthen the implementing and enforcement powers of the Bureau of Fisheries (BFAR) and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture.
The bill seeks to strengthen the deterrent functions of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, increasing the fines and periods of imprisonment under the penalties for violating its provisions.
It aims to improve the protection of marine resources and comply with international commitments on fishing.
Among these is the country’s commitment under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to exercise state control over water fishing fleet, strengthening coastal state responsibility to manage stocks and to refuse port entry of illegal and unregulated fishing.
According to the chairman of the Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries and bill author Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (4th District, Cebu), the bill seeks to amend the whole Chapter VI (Prohibitions and Penalties).
“RA 8550 is replete with penalties that are not commensurate to damage caused, the economic value lost and habitat destroyed. In exchange for large sums of money, violators only find these penalties convenient, a pint in their business investment pie. This defeats the deterrent function of the penalty,” he said in a statement released on Sunday.
Rep. Pryde Henry Teves (3rd District, Negros Oriental), also an author of the bill, said the measure provides an automatic escalation clause for the fines, compensating inflation and maintaining its function.
Other key provisions of the bill include the introduction of additional terms, the concept of community service, and strengthening of the administrative powers of the Department of Agriculture and the director of BFAR.
A reward system for informants shall be established, providing for the filing of citizen suits and Suits and Strategic Legal Action Against Public Participation against public officers who will impose liens on personal immovable properties of violators.