Allowing commercial fishers in municipal waters would worsen the exploitation of our fisheries. This bill would unfairly displace our artisanal fisherfolk who depend on municipal waters for their food and livelihood. We also support the local governments’ efforts in monitoring, control, and surveillance to ensure that municipal waters are protected from illegal fishing.
The Philippine Constitution mandates the State to protect its marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone (Art. XII, sec. 2.). The State likewise is duty-bound to “protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore. It shall provide support to such fishermen through appropriate technology and research, adequate financial, production, and marketing assistance, and other services. The State shall also protect, develop, and conserve such resources. (Article XIII, Section 7). This was affirmed in the amended Fisheries Code of the Philippines (RA10654) by not allowing commercial fishing in the municipal waters which covers 15 kilometers from the shoreline. Small-scale fishers and commercial fishers cannot co-exist as it will aggravate the built-in conflict between the two sectors.
While the law is clear on banning illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters, its enforcement is weak. Illegal fishing, overfishing, and habitat destruction are among the pressures that humans have inflicted on our ocean.
According to studies, 70% of fish stocks are considered overfished resulting in the decline of both commercial and municipal fisheries production since 2010. This brought about an urgent need for scientific and sound management plans and mechanisms to sustainably manage our fisheries and fish stocks.
Under RA10654, Fisheries Administrative Order 263 was promulgated establishing 12 Fisheries Management Areas to ensure that the ecosystems approach to fisheries management is the basis of managing and ensuring the sustainability of marine and fisheries resources.
Instead of altering the heart and spirit of the amended Fisheries Code of the Philippines, we call for the strict and immediate implementation of all its provisions not only to address the prevalence of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing but also to ensure the protection and welfare of all sectors in the fishing industry.
We, as members of fisherfolk organizations, coastal communities and civil society organizations oppose House Bill 7853 which seeks to allow commercial fishing vessels to catch fish within the 15-kilometer municipal fishing ground. Allowing commercial fishing in municipal waters would worsen the overexploitation of our fishery resources and unfairly displace our municipal fisherfolks that are dependent on their access to municipal waters for their food and livelihood.
We also support the local governments in putting in place effective monitoring, control, and surveillance systems. We urge the national government agencies to facilitate the realization of this mechanism to ensure that municipal waters are protected from illegal fishing. This includes the implementation of Fisheries Administrative Order 266 that provides the guidelines that require vessel monitoring measures and electronic reporting system for all commercial fishing vessels.
We also call on members of Congress, fisherfolk organizations, members of civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to oppose House Bill 7853 which would lead to further overexploitation of our already depleted fish stocks and will also negatively affect the lives of municipal fisherfolk and their families.