DILG issues a scorecard for coastal LGU’s compliance of fishery laws
Guidelines on the implementation of the Fisheries Compliance Audit (FishCA) took effect on August 31, 2018 with the issuance by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) of Memorandum Circular No. 2018-147. The FishCA is a pioneering monitoring tool created by the DILG to supervise coastal Local Government Units’ (LGUs) compliance with the Philippine Fisheries Code (R.A. 8550), as amended by RA 10654. It aims to reinforce their responsibilities under the law, and to consolidate compliance data of LGUs in ensuring the sustainable and effective management of municipal waters.
Likewise, on April 23, 2018, the DILG issued a Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2018-59 entitled “Policies and Guidelines on the Regulation and Monitoring of Fishery Activities in Municipal Waters” to make certain that coastal LGUs prioritize the management of the municipal waters, upon which municipal fishers depend upon for their livelihoods, as well as to hold them accountable in the exercise of such powers and functions. This policy is a reminder for LGUs to properly safeguard the health and vitality of the marine habitats and resources in the municipal waters all over the country.
The FishCA aims to measure coastal LGUs compliance to MC No. 2018-59 as well.
As DILG Secretary Eduardo Año has said, “Millions of lives depend on water and its resources. It is imperative, therefore, for LGUs to be on top of ensuring that their water resources are nurtured and protected because these assets are vital to national development.”
Under the amended Fisheries Code, the municipal/city government exercises jurisdiction over municipal waters. The municipal/city government, in consultation with the Fisheries and aquatic Resources Management Council (FARMC), is tasked with “the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization, and disposition of all fish and fishery/aquatic resources within their respective municipal waters.”
Municipal waters are areas covered within 15 kilometers from the coastline, including offshore islands. As a general rule, only municipal fishing boats weighing less than 3 gross tons, which use non-destructive, passive fishing gear are allowed to fish within municipal waters.
There has been a steady and alarming decline of fish catch over the years. Fisheries production dropped down by 13% over the last decade according to data from Fisheries Situation Reports of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). This means we are currently producing over 650 million metric tons of fish less than what we produced in 2008. Besides declining fish catch, the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported that 10 out of 13 fishing grounds or about 75% of the country’s fishing sites are overfished.
The FishCA measures the performance of coastal local government units in fisheries governance, coastal environment, stakeholder participation and law enforcement. Specifically, the tool will assess and monitor accomplishments of coastal cities and municipalities in the issuance of municipal ordinances, monitoring of fishery activities, initiatives towards sustainable fisheries, and ensuring the functionality of municipal or city M/CFARMCs, as required by RA 8550, as amended.
All coastal LGUs are directed to report by the end of the third quarter of 2018 to the Department of Interior and Local Government the initial status of their compliance.
Lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President for Oceana Philippines, said that this latest development is groundbreaking, as many stakeholders including local fisherfolk organizations have been clamoring for strong implementation of the laws and embedding science-based decision-making in the management of municipal waters. “We welcome this much-needed tool to ensure proper management and conservation of our municipal waters. This also opens the opportunity for local communities and the civil society sector to partner with DILG and coastal LGUs in the conduct of the assessment nationwide. This much-welcome DILG initiative is not just about enforcement of fishery laws; it is about food security and addressing poverty challenges which our artisanal fishermen and their families face when the municipal waters are not sustainably managed and amid the dire impacts of climate change.”
Ruperto Aleroza, a sectoral council representative of artisanal fisherfolk in the National Anti-Poverty Commission, echoes the same sentiment. “We fully support this move of DILG. We are ready to work with our LGUs to help protect our municipal waters and ensure good ocean governance.”
According to Pablo Rosales from Pangisda Pilipinas, a fisherfolk organization, municipal fisheries supports the livelihood to Filipino artisanal fishermen and provide food to our fish-eating nation. He believes that LGUs play a big role in enforcement of fishery laws. (Ang munisipal na pangisdaan ay salalayan ng pag-unlad ng mga artisanong mangingisda at siyang pangmumulan ng masaganang pagkain ng sambayang Pilipino. Sa pagkamit nito, malaking papel ng LGU sa pamamagitan ng pagpapatupad at pagawa ng ordinansa sa proteksyon at pangangalaga ayon sa RA 10654.)
“This DILG initiative directly responds to the needs of our fisherfolk to address urgent issues, especially in areas where commercial fishing encroachment is pervasive,” adds Rosales.