Fisherfolk, marine conservationists thumb down move to amend Fisheries Code

Published February 9, 2021, 12:23 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Fisherfolk and marine resources protection groups have expressed their opposition Monday, February 8 to House Deputy Speaker Pablo John Garcia’s bid to amend Republic Act (RA) No.8550, also known as the Fisheries Code of 1998.


Lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President, said that the existing Fisheries Code implements the constitutional provision guaranteeing the preferential right of artisanal fisherfolk in municipal water by prohibiting commercial fishing operations within the 15-kilometer from the shoreline.

Garcia, a Cebu congressman, authored and filed House Bill (HB) No.7853, which proposes to allow commercial fishing activities in the part of municipal waters, from 10.1 to 15 kilometers from the shoreline as an exception.

It also seeks to allow commercial fishing for coastal cities and municipalities with less than 10 kilometers of municipal waters.

“The plan to amend the Fisheries Code provision is alarming. Our ocean has not even recovered or has not been rehabilitated from overfishing and here they are wanting commercial fishing inside the municipal water. We will not allow it and we will take action to ensure that all our efforts on fisheries management will not be squandered,” said Pablo Rosales, Chairperson of PANGISDA Pilipinas, an alliance of artisanal, small-scale and subsistence fishers and fisherfolk organizations.

Fisheries science expert Wilfredo Campos from the University of the Philippines Visayas said it’s very clear from available data that a lot of local fish stocks, particularly sardines roundscad (galunggong), are already overfished.

“The catch of commercial fishing will increase If we allow them to fish in areas closer to the shore where natural abundance is higher than that beyond the 15-kilometer zone from the shoreline. In that case, the catch of our municipal, artisanal fishers will decline. They will not be able to compete for catch because of the limitation in their gears and resources. A lot of them will be displaced, immediately, within days and weeks, not one or two years,” he warned.

For her part, laywer Rhea Yray Frossard, Oceana’s Fisheries Management Areas Coordinator, claimed that the Garcia bill threatens to undermine the safeguards in the existing law.

“The Philippines should pursue its commitment to international conventions that is an important amended in the Fisheries Code in the Republic Act 10654. This and the adoption of the precautionary principle and the ecosystem-approach to fisheries management and integrated coastal management are important elements of our existing law that will be undermined in the proposed House Bill 7853,” Frossard said.