MANILA, Philippines - The commercial fishing sector is calling on President Aquino to veto the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Code, citing that the bill was made without consulting affected sectors and has no provisions to promote growth of the fishing sector.
“We implore you, dear Mr. President, please veto the congressional bill amending the Philippine Fisheries Code and help us start the process of working together to draft a new and more responsive one,” the Alliance of Philippine Fishing Federations Inc. which groups operators of commercial fishing vessels, said in a published advertisement yesterday.
The group claim the bill, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8550 or the Fisheries Code passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, was made possible even without meaningful consultation with the most affected sectors of the fishing industry.
The group noted that the bill was passed at a very fast pace, amid pressure from the European Union which raised concerns over the Philippines’ shortcomings in the fight against illegal fishing and warned that the country’s fish exports could be banned from the bloc.
While the objective of the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Code is to conserve marine resources, the group is concerned over the penalties proposed.
An infraction punishable by a fine of P10,000 under the Fisheries Code would be imposed, with fines of as much as P5 million for local fishing and P90 million for large overseas fishing vessels, plus an automatic escalation of 10 percent every three years based on the bill.
The group noted that while illegal fishing using dynamite or cyanide could cause irreparable damage in contrast to sustainable methods of commercial fishing, the penalties for the former are lighter than those to be imposed on commercial fishing operations.
The group also raised concern on the powers to be granted by the proposed amendments to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“The bill, once signed, gives absolute power to the BFAR director over and beyond the reach of our Constitution which embodies our democratic principles of checks and balances. Our entire judicial system, our
Department of Justice, all our enforcement agencies: MARINA, Coast Guard and PNP (Philippine National Police) Maritime, and Commission on Audit. All of these will be rendered powerless on fishery matters by operation of this bill,” the group said.
BFAR director Asis Perez could not be reached for comment as of press time Wednesday.
If the bill takes effect, the group also warned that many fishing companies would eventually close down and such would affect food security with the commercial fishing industry supplying fish to the whole country.
Instead of approving the bill, the group said a new bill which takes into account the interest of the commercial fishing industry and other affected sectors should be put forward.
“Please allow us, the most affected sector to participate in drafting a new bill that would balance the interest of all sectors of the society and our international commitments. We assure you of our support and cooperation,” the group said.
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