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Consultations ongoing for further amendments to Fisheries Code

THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and commercial fishing companies are currently in discussions on possible new amendments to the Fisheries Code, the BFAR said.

In a virtual forum on Tuesday, Rommel Adolf I. Diciano, head of BFAR’s conservation and environmental protection section, said consultations are ongoing with various segments of the fishing industry.

“Pertaining to the amendments to the fisheries law that we are proposing, this is undergoing consultation and we have asked the various sectors… to (propose) possible amendments to our fisheries law,” he said.

“But rest assured, in the spirit of policy democracy, we want to get your side… your participation is important as you witness the real situations,” he added.

Republic Act (RA) No. 10654 or the Amended Philippine Fisheries Code of the Philippines has most recently been amended to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF), a condition for the Philippines to continue enjoying trade privileges with blocs like the European Union (EU).

“It bears noting that the Philippine Fisheries Code was amended as part of the international commitment specifically to the EU, after a yellow card warning was issued for failure to address IUU fishing,” Rose-Liza Eisma-Osorio, acting vice-president of Oceana Philippines, said.

Edlyn L. Rosales, leader of fisherfolk group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Mangingisda (Pangisda)-Bataan, said amendments would be premature as the revised law has not even been fully implemented.

“We haven’t fully used RA 10654 since it was amended from RA 8550,” she said.

Ms. Rosales said that the bureau needs to show “real teeth” for the benefit of fisherfolk, adding that code violations are rampant within Philippine waters.

“Maraming magagandang batas na nasa loob ng RA 10654 kaso ang problema kasi natin doon ay walang tiyak na inilagay or binigyan ng power ’yong ating gobyerno para sa tiyak na magpapa-implement ng mga nilalaman (RA 10654 has many good provisions, but the problem is that it lacks specific enforcement powers),” she added.

Ms. Eisma-Osorio highlighted the need for more transparency in addressing IUUF, particularly vessel monitoring measures.

She called for “transparency in vessel information, fishing activity, and governance and management in general.”

The National Government suspended vessel monitoring measures for commercial fishing boats through a memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin, “pending the final resolution over its constitutionality by the Supreme Court.

Last month, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. ordered the Department of Agriculture and BFAR to draft the necessary issuances for the implementation of the Fisheries Administrative Order No. 266. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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