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Amendments to Fisheries Code Approved by Philippine Senate

Amendments to Fisheries Code Approved by Philippine Senate

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The Philippine Senate approved amendments to the country’s Fisheries Code, thus complying with international conventions and avoiding a possible ban by the European Union (EU) on marine and fisheries products.

(Photo from: Associated Press)

(Photo from: Associated Press)

Senate Bill No. 2414, which seeks to strengthen the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) regulatory and enforcement functions, was approved on third and final reading with 16 votes, with no rejections and abstentions.

The consolidated measure, sponsored by agriculture committee chairperson Senator Cynthia A. Villar, was approved on first reading on 17 September 2014, three months after Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed a resolution seeking to address reports of EU’s plans to impose an import ban over the country’s failure to fulfill its maritime duties to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

It hurdled the second reading stage with amendments on 22 October 2014.

The measure’s counterpart at the lower chamber, House Bill 4536, was already passed on third and final reading in June.

In a statement on 26 October, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said the measure should be enacted by the end of the year to address the EU’s placement of the country under the “yellow flag” warning. Failure to act on it, he said, would result in the blacklisting of all marine and fisheries products in the 28-nation EU market.

Ms. Santiago’s Senate Resolution No. 726 noted that the EU imported fish worth €165 million (around P9.8 billion at the time) from the country in 2013.

Citing BFAR data, Mr. Drilon noted that the fisheries sector comprises some 2.1% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Punitive measures

Under the measure, a fine of P2.5 million to P10 million, or twice the value of the catch, whichever is higher, would be imposed for large-scale commercial IUU fishing. On the other hand, for medium-scale and small-scale fishing, the fines would be P250,000 to P2 million, and P50,000 to P200,000, respectively.

The Fisheries Code, enacted in 1997, currently imposes fines ranging from P100,000 to P500,000.

Mr. Drilon also said the bill would “protect local fishers from the unlawful competition presented by the wanton entry of foreign poachers who take advantage of our abundant aquatic resources.”

The bill states that “it shall be unlawful for any foreign person, corporation or entity to fish or operate any fishing vessel in Philippine waters,” and classifies it as “poaching.” Violators would be fined P1 million for small-scale, P5 million for medium-scale, or P10 million for large-scale fishing, or twice the value of the catch whichever is higher.

Aside from providing for stricter punitive measures, the revised Fisheries Code would also expand its coverage to “all Philippine-flagged fishing vessels” operating in “distant water fishing” outside the country’s territory, such as in the high seas (not part of any state) and in waters of coastal states.

The term “illegal fishing” would also cover Philippine-flagged vessels in another state violating its laws, as well as foreign-flagged vessels in the country that violate Philippine laws.

(View original story from BusinessWorld)

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