June 11, 2019
To protect the livelihood and boost the production of small fisherfolk in the country, the national alliance of small fisherfolk organizations on Monday urged the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to declare all municipal waters as commercial fishing-free zones.
Commercial fishing vessels weighing 3.1 gross tons (GT) and above remain to be one of the main threats on the livelihood of small and subsistent fisherfolk, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a statement.
The group said large-scale commercial fishing fleets are still rampant within the 15-kilometer municipal fishing grounds intended for small fisherfolk, as declared by the national fisheries law. This has caused the municipal fish catch and production to fall because commercial fishing possesses relatively advanced fishing technology which exploits the municipal fishery resources, leaving less for small fisherfolk, Pamalakaya explained.
“Commercial fishing vessels outcompete small fishers because the latter use backward method of fishing, as compared to the advanced and sophisticated fishing equipments of bigger ones. Aside from modern technology, commercial fishing often engages in destructive mode of fishing, the Danish seine (hulbot-hulbot) is a case in point,” said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairman.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Pamalakaya said municipal fisheries production fell by 1.78 percent or an estimated 1.11 million metric tons (MMT) in 2018 compared to 1.13 MMT recorded a year earlier.
“Aside from the repressive provisions of the existing fisheries law that aim to curtail the fishing activities of small fishers, commercial fishing fleets operated by local politicians, former military and police generals, and influential individuals continue to exploit the resources in the municipal waters,” Hicap said.
He lambasted Republic Act 10654 or the Amended Fisheries Code for its failure to prohibit commercial fishing vessels in entering the municipal waters. “In fact, the amended fisheries code has even legalized the plunder of big-fishing firms in our fishing grounds through the 7-fathom provision stated in the law. Even if the Amended Fisheries Code declared that the 15-kilometer municipal waters are exclusive for small fishers, commercial fishing vessels can still enter if depth reaches 7 fathoms and above, regardless if it is still inside the 15 kilometers. This is how the law has been manipulated to favor big fishing vessels,” Hicap pointed out.
Under RA 10654, whoever is found guilty of commercial fishing violations will be punished by penalties from P1 million to as high as P45 million.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol had said that since the implementation of RA 10654, the Philippines’ total fishing output barely grew. In July last year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) proposed for a 10-kilometer adjustment in the fishing limit imposed on municipal waters in boost fishing yield.
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