Villar keynotes Annual FMA Summit emphasizing municipal waters protection, RA 10654 implementation - Oceana Philippines
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Villar keynotes Annual FMA Summit emphasizing municipal waters protection, RA 10654 implementation

Press Release Date: March 22, 2024

Oceana, BFAR seek increased support for FMAs to address threats to fisherfolk, food security

The overwhelming potential of the fisheries industry as a source of food and nutritional security remains largely untapped despite the registered number of 2.3 million fisherfolk who are mostly involved in capture fishing, Worse, their livelihood and our national food security are threatened by overfishing, illegal fishing, inadequate post-harvest activities, wastage of fisheries sources, and the prevailing continuing poverty among the coastal communities. As a response, scientists, civil society organizations (CSOs), and government leaders have joined hands in appealing for increased budget support for the Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) system which, if fully implemented, can help solve these issues.

The 3rd FMA Summit in Cebu on March 14, 2024, sparked a collective call to the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives for increased resources for the science-based fisheries management planning and full implementation of the FMA system.  Organized by the international marine conservation organization Oceana and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the participants were united in emphasizing compelling action for the restoration of fishing abundance, provision for more post-harvest facilities, and the reduction of overfishing.

Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of the Senate Agriculture and Food, and principal author of RA 10654 which amended the Fisheries Code of 1990, said during her keynote speech: “Fisheries management is crucial to ensure that fishing activities are conducted in a way that minimizes detrimental impact on fish stocks and ecosystems.”

RA 10654 puts in place reforms that if fully implemented will boost the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

Villar warned that overfishing can lead to “a collapse of the fishing sector as a source of livelihood. “The government, fisherfolk, scientists, experts, and CSOs in this summit are united to ensure that science-based laws and policies establishing FMAs are fully implemented to have more fish in our ocean and create positive impacts on the coastal communities,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President. “The poor, artisanal, municipal fisherfolk and their families will benefit from the commitments of the FMA management bodies.”

The Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 263, issued by the Department of Agriculture-BFAR in 2019, set the rules and guidelines for fisheries governance, as prescribed by Republic Act 10654, the amended Fisheries Code. It upholds the transparent, science-based, and participatory approach to sustainably manage Philippine fisheries and take care of the well-being of fisherfolk and the coastal communities.

It has been five years since the FMA system’s adoption on January 28, 2019.  The FMA Summit is an annual activity to report the state of its implementation from the Scorecard crafted by various civil society organizations, including Oceana. This year it is fittingly a celebration of its accomplishments, with Oceana organizing the 1st and 2nd FMA Summit virtually in December 2020 and December 2021.

BFAR National Director Atty. Demosthenes Escoto acknowledged that the impact of the FMAs on fishing communities has been significant, especially in improving their socio-economic status. He highlighted the crucial role of sustainability plans being developed by BFAR and other implementing agencies to further the effective, science-based, and participatory implementation of the FMA system.

All 12 FMAs established their management bodies, scientific advisory groups, and technical working groups. Six of them have adopted and approved the FMA Management Plans.

In the 3rd FMA Scorecard[1] Report, four FMAs have shown excellent performances:   FMA 1, led by BFAR 2 with Chairperson of the Management Body, Regional Director (RD) Dr. Angel Encarnacion; FMA 7, led by BFAR 5 with Chairperson of the Management Body, RD Ariel Pioquinto; FMA 11, led by BFAR 6 with Chairperson of the Management Body, RD Remia Aparri; and FMA 12, led by BFAR 4A with Chairperson  of the Management Body RD Sammy Malvas.

To ensure their progress and the continued growth of the FMA system, the summit recommended the following measures:

  • Institutionalized sufficient budget for the 12 FMAs to be supported by the legislators in Congress and the Senate. The Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028[2] includes fully operationalizing the FMAs, especially the convening of management bodies and developing and implementing the fisheries management plans as priorities.
  • Approved FMA Plan, Reference Points, and Harvest Control Rules can help the FMAs move to the full implementation phase. FAO 263 does not provide for a definite period and gives wide discretion for the creation of all these.  The FMAs must create a time-specific work plan to guide implementation and monitor progress. BFAR can set a definite period and impose a mandatory deadline for the submission of all FMA management plans.
  •  The crafting of an FMA-wide Enforcement Plan supported by a strong enforcement team. FMAs can strengthen the bantay dagat enforcement officers of covered LGUs. Access to technology including transparency measures, the procurement of patrol boats and other necessary equipment, capacity building, and paralegal training for enforcers will smooth FMA implementation.  CSOs can raise awareness and enhance the capacity of LGUs, enforcers, and fisherfolk.
  •  Coastal LGUs, under the supervision of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), must be involved in every step of the process and play a more proactive role in the decision-making. This will ensure that plans at the FMA and LGU levels are updated and aligned. It will enable more commitment and support from LGUs in the enforcement of policies, measures, and guidelines that are crafted by the FMA management bodies. Active LGU involvement will ensure a stronger impact among the communities. The DILG can also include this as part of the Fisheries Compliance Audit (FishCA) and Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG).
  •  Greater information dissemination about the FMAs to reach as many stakeholders as possible. Utilizing mainstream media, social media, and other online platforms to expand the scale of information dissemination is one approach. Another is crafting information materials written in the local dialect.  The consultation process becomes more impactful if stakeholders are informed and encouraged to participate actively in the discussions and express concerns.
  •  FMAs should strengthen existing participatory mechanisms designed to promote public participation which can improve governance. This allows the public to share their aspirations for sustainable fishery management. It also creates a sense of ownership on the part of the constituent stakeholders in ensuring an effective FMA System.
  •  The implementation of transparency tools. CSOs, ideally one from each FMA, can lead in annually assessing each FMA’s progress and compliance with the legal mandates through the scorecard. Results can be discussed and verified, including other considerations in the process not captured by the FMA scorecard.


Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 300 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit to learn more.