Stand by your mandate to fully implement commercial fishing vessels monitoring measures, government urged
Press Release Date: November 13, 2023
“Mababaw na dahilan ang pagsasabing malalantad ang kanilang trade secret. Unang una kung walang itinatagong masama bakit matatakot na malantad? Paano kung ang mga isda na ibebenta nila ay hinuli pala sa municipal waters pero idineklarang imported upang maikubli ang iligal na pangingisda at makaiwas sa lahat ng kaparusahan?”
This was the statement of Ruperto Aleroza, fisherfolk leader of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan and Vice Chair for the Basic Sectors of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), following the recent presentation of oral arguments by the commercial fishing sector before the Supreme Court.
Artisanal and municipal fishers counter the claims of commercial fishers on “trade secret” and “equal protection” as they also appeal for the full implementation of commercial fishing vessels monitoring measures (VMM).
“VMM is the only system that will enable us to monitor the activities of the commercial fishing operators. Ito po ang makakapagbigay kaalaman kung ang vessel na ito ay hindi pumapasok sa mga municipal waters na sana ay para sa maliliit na mangingisda lamang,” said Martha Cadano, fisherfolk leader from Northern Samar.
Commercial fishing operators urged the Supreme Court to affirm the ruling of the Malabon Regional Trial Court that declared unconstitutional Fishing Administrative Order (FAO) 266, which requires fishing operators to install monitoring systems on commercial fishing vessels.
Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra presented its arguments on behalf of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). Atty. Michael de Castro did the same as counsel for Oceana.
“Malinaw ang layunin sa pagpapasa ng batas para sa VMM – malaman ng publiko kung saan at paano hinuli ang kakainin nilang isda para matiyak nila na ito ay hindi ginamitan ng anumang makasasama sa kalusugan,” Aleroza said.
Aleroza and Cadano jointly urge the government’s enforcement agencies, particularly the BFAR to stand by their mandate and implement the VMM nationwide and install the monitoring device in all commercial fishing vessels.
“May batas na at nakasalalay dito ang kabuhayan ng mga taong umaasa sa pangisdaan at kinakailangang pagsalba sa naghihingalo na nating sektor dahil sa patuloy na paglapastangan sa ating mga critical marine habitat. Nananawagan din tayo sa publiko na suportahan ang panawagan naming mga artisanong mangingisda na patuloy natin itong pangalagaan sa pamamagitan ng sama-samang pagtutol sa anumang tukoy na mapanirang paraan ng pangingisda,” Aleroza and Cadano explained in their statement released to the media.
Under the FAO 266, all commercial catcher fishing vessels operating within Philippine waters and all licensed Philippine-flagged commercial fishing vessels authorized to operate in the high seas, and those with access rights to fish in other countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) will have to comply with the VMM. It also applies to all catcher fishing vessels 3.1 GT and above that are operating within Philippine waters, including the Exclusive Economic Zone. The Electronic Reporting System (ERS) gathers data from the VMM on the fish catch volume and location, vessel activity and its port of origin and arrival, among others.
Section 119 of Republic Act No.10654 or the Amended Fisheries Code, states that if administrative liability is found, the vessel owner will be punished with confiscation of catch, suspension or revocation of the license and an administrative fine equivalent to twice the value of the catch or the fines, whichever is higher.
In the opening statement of de Castro, on behalf of Oceana, he stated that, “The Fisheries Code is not only an environmental law, it is a social legislation. When the Constitution speaks of giving priority to subsistence fishermen and fish workers, it is laying down a policy that not even Congress can set aside. All the waters belong to the State and thus, it has both the right to regulate its use and the correlative obligation to enforce measures to ensure that the marine resources therein are not subjected to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. VMM is an important tool toward this end.”