A national coalition of fisherfolk and marine conservationists welcomed the move of President Rodrigo Duterte to clean up Boracay and Panglao, prime tourist destinations in the Philippines. Speaking in a press conference to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of Republic Act No. 10654, which amended the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, Mr. Ruperto Aleroza, fisherfolk leader of Pangingisda Natin Gawing Tama (PaNaGaT) network and National Union of Rural-Based Organizations in the Philippines challenged the President to muster political will in addressing illegal fishing in the country.
“If the President is furious about the lack of sewerage system of Boracay and Panglao, we urged him to express the same to illegal fishing which is making the lives and livelihoods of more than 1.8 million fisherfolk more miserable. Hunger is prevalent because of empty seas, and we should do something concrete than showing indignation,” says Aleroza. Fisherfolk are considered to be the poorest of the poor with 34% poverty incidence in 2015. Illegal fishing is a primary factor that led to a decline in fish catch and income from fishing in the country.
Three years after the amendments of the Fisheries Code, data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) showed an increasing number of reported violations from 254 in 2016 to 894 in 2017. This indicates that the law has not deterred illegal fishing in the country. Foremost of these are the encroachment of commercial fishing vessels, the use of Danish seines and Modified Danish Seines or hulbot-hulbot, plus dynamite and cyanide fishing within 15-km municipal waters.
“Illegal commercial and destructive fishing drastically destroys the productivity of our oceans – causing our country to lose about PHP44 Billion in fishing revenues yearly, apart from heavily impacting the livelihoods of our artisanal fisherfolk. We call on the government and all stakeholders to remain steadfast in stopping illegal fishing and for BFAR to suspend or revoke licenses of fisheries law violators,” says Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Vice President of Oceana and member of the PaNaGaT network.
Based on a 2017 Social Weather Station study that was commissioned by Oceana, around 43% of Filipinos believe that illegal fishing is a serious problem. Most of them believe that proper fisheries management and strict enforcement of fishery laws can address illegal fishing.
By law, the local government units and the BFAR are mandated to manage the coastal and marine resources in the country. Unfortunately, despite being a fishing nation, they are ill equipped and understaffed to patrol and monitor the waters surrounding the more than 7100 islands of the Philippines.
“We are afraid that the efforts of our municipality to end illegal fishing will just go to waste if there is no comprehensive, cohesive or coordinated effort on a national level by different government agencies to protect our fragile marine resources and fishing grounds. We need an urgent intervention from the office of the President to prioritize our waters, doing nothing is a disservice to each one of us living within the archipelago,” shared Mr. Joemar Salagubang, the Municipal Agriculturist of Agdangan, Quezon.
Akbayan Partylist Representative Tom Villain, in a privileged speech this afternoon at the House of Representatives called on his fellow legislators to immediately pass the proposed bill to upgrade BFAR into a Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DOFAR) while requesting for a Congressional Inquiry on the status of implementation of the Fisheries Code to end illegal fishing in the country.
“Time and again, overfishing and degradation of our seas like what happened to Boracay should force us to implement a long term solution such as with the creation of DOFAR. We cannot just have a sudden political will in a given period of time because it’s hip and trending, and then jump to another hot issue, as legislators we need to do more, and that occasion is now. We need to save our seas, in order to save our nation.”
Fish yields have been declining for decades. Today, 43% of Filipinos believe that illegal fishing is a serious problem and that proper fisheries management and strict enforcement of fishery laws can restore oceanic productivity. (Gregg Yan / PaNaGaT)
PaNaGaT Network Members
Greenpeace-Southeast Asia, Institute of Social Order, Integrated Rural Development Foundation, National Union of Rural-Based Organizations in the Philippines, NGOs for Fisheries Reform, National Movement for Food Sovereignty, Oceana Philippines, Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda Sa Pilipinas (PANGISDA-Pilipinas), Tambuyog Development Centre, World Wide Fund for Nature-Program Partnership Toward Sustainable Tuna (WWF-PPTST)
Contact person: Mr. Dennis F. Calvan, 09178995658