Supreme Court rejects petition for rules on tracking fishing vessels

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2022 05:46 PM

Workers carry buckets of salty shrimp harvested from Manila Bay at a fish port in Tangos, Navotas City on May 31, 2022. Oceana Philippines campaign and research director Atty. Rhea Yray-Frossard told TeleRadyo that fishermen are still among the poorest people in the Philippines today and they catching even fewer fish. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News 
Workers carry buckets of salty shrimp harvested from Manila Bay at a fish port in Tangos, Navotas City on May 31, 2022. Oceana Philippines campaign and research director Atty. Rhea Yray-Frossard told TeleRadyo that fishermen are still among the poorest people in the Philippines today and they catching even fewer fish. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News 


MANILA — The Supreme Court has junked a petition that sought to compel government to issue rules that would regulate commercial fishing by tracking the location of boats. 
 
In 2018, international NGO Oceana Philippines and 3 Filipino fishermen filed a petition for a continuing mandamus to oblige the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to draft rules for Vessel Monitoring Measures. VMM is a system for tracking the location of vessels.

The 3 fishermen—Arnulfo Febria, Edgardo Leongson and Bernardo Rondon Jr—complained that unregulated operations of commercial fishing vessels have led to dwindling catch as they allegedly encroach into municipal waters reserved for small-time fishers. 

In denying their petition, the Supreme Court said the issuance of fishing policies is not a ministerial function that can be compelled through a continuing mandamus.

"The Court recognizes the expertise of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources which the Congress expressly authorized to curb illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and mandated to ensure compliance of fishing vessels with conservation and management measures," the SC said in a resolution dated Dec. 7, 2021.
 
"The Court will not interfere with the respondents' exercise of administrative discretion," it added. 

The Supreme Court en banc also said the alleged inaction of both the DA and the BFAR was unsubstantiated, and that petitioners failed to show they were personally aggrieved by an unlawful act or omission.

"The petitioners' general allegation that the respondents' supposed inaction adversely affected the country's marine resources is insufficient to justify the issuance of the writ of continuing mandamus," the court said.

The petition accused DA and BFAR of inaction on the 2015 amendment of the Fisheries Code and its implementing rules and regulations, which required authorities to determine the appropriate vessel monitoring technology and the schedule to include in its coverage vessels weighing 3.1 to 30 gross tons.

The BFAR came out with an administrative order on Oct. 5, 2018 but the petitioners’ counsel, lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno, said the order does not comply with the law as it covers only vessels more than 30 gross tons in weight.
 
— With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

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