In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized the need to enforce fisheries laws, particularly in combatting illegal fishing.
“We welcome President Duterte’s pronouncement on fisheries law enforcement as a priority. For a country that is dependent on the seas for its sustenance and livelihood, we certainly need to be more vigilant in protecting our marine resources,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice-President for Oceana Philippines.
President Duterte, who is known for his strong stance against crime and illegal drugs, outlined his administration’s road map for the next six years during his first SONA on July 25.
“We will strictly enforce fisheries laws, particularly on illegal fishing,” Duterte said, speaking before the joint session of the Philippine Congress.
The Philippines ranks 14th in the world as a source of seafood caught in the wild. Despite recent improvements in fisheries law enforcement, however, destructive practices and the illegal exploitation of commercial fishers in municipal waters are still huge problems in the country.
(See Oceana’s Policy Brief on Sustainable Fisheries Management and Marine Conservation here.)
The Fisheries Code was amended last year to strengthen the protection and promote the sustainability of Philippine fisheries. Republic Act 10654, which amended the Fisheries Code, seeks to “prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated” or IUU fishing in the country.
“Strong political will to end the encroachment of commercial fishing vessels within municipal waters and protected areas will definitely arrest the decline of our fisheries stocks. Strengthened law enforcement results to increased incomes of the marginalized fisherfolk, who are the country’s poorest of the poor, and our coastal residents whose lives, income and culture are tied to our oceans,” Ramos said.
Oceana is calling for regular sea-borne patrols, inter-agency collaboration, apprehension of fishing vessels, enforcement of the vessel monitoring mechanism, and filing of cases as ways forward in fighting illegal fishing in the country. The nationwide ban on modified Danish seine, known as hulbot-hulbot, and dynamite fishing should also be fully implemented.
“We hope that this positive development will pave the way for a holistic approach in Philippine fisheries management, for the recovery of our once abundant fisheries,” Ramos said.
According to the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP), the fisheries sector provides employment to over one million Filipinos.