By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar scolded on Monday officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Agriculture (BFAR) over their failure to report the agency’s efforts to penalize illegal fishing in the country’s waters.
At the inquiry of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, BFAR officials were grilled by its committee chairman, Villar, for supposedly snubbing the panel’s requests for reports on the implementation of the Republic Act No 10654 or the Act to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF), which amended RA 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998.
Villar, in particular, was irked after the BFAR failed to provide the committee some information on fines they have collected from those caught engaged in illegal fishing, from 1998, when RA 8550 was signed into law, up to the present.
Since the law was enacted, the BFAR was only able to collect an average of P15 million in penalties a year – far from the P1 billion annual target set by the government, said Villar.
Asked about the “history” of their collection, BFAR Legal Division chief Atty. Demosthenes Escoto admitted that the agency was not able to monitor the fines collected from erring fishers.