Local government units (LGU) along Samar Bay have released a manifesto against House Bill 7853, which will give commercial fishing vessels more access to municipal coastal waters.
In the manifesto, the Alliance of Local Government Units Along Samar Bays and Channels (ALSBACH) Inc. said it “strongly opposed” the passing of HB 7853, which proposes to amend section 18 of Republic Act (RA) 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998.
Pending with the House Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources since October last year, HB 7853 seeks to allow Commercial Fishing Boats to operate within the 10.1 to 15 kilometers distance from the shoreline of the City and Municipal Coastal Waters.
This is in violation of the current and amended version of RA 8550, which only allows marginal fisherfolk to fish in city and municipal coastal waters.
“The City and Municipal Local Government Units are mandated by law to manage, protect and conserve fisheries and aquatic resources within their designated coastal waters for the benefit of the marginal and subsistence fisherfolks who are directly dependent on these resources,” ALSBACH said.
“The three most highly productive and critical habitats such as the coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves are located within the City and Municipal Coastal Waters which are important in the life cycle of many marine organism including pelagic fishes to regenerate its population,” it added.
ALSBACH is composed of 12 municipalities and one city including Maqueda, Villareal, Laguimit Bays, San Juanico Strait, Zumarraga, Daram Channels and Samar Sea areas.
Last week, other fisherfolk groups and LGUS also called for the scrapping of HB 7853, saying that it could result in the further exploitation of the already depleted fish stocks of the country.
In particular, local governments in Romblon and Surigao del Norte, through separate resolutions, urged their District Representatives in Congress to junk the bill.
The League of Municipalities of the Philippines Romblon Chapter President and Romblon Mayor Gerard S. Montojo said 17 local government units in the province signed the resolution.
“There is no compelling reason to expand the operations of small and medium commercial fishing vessels to more areas of municipal waters than what is stated as an exception under the law. Increasing national catch by commercial fishing vessels would result in inequity of benefit distribution accruing to municipal and small-scale fishers, contributing to increasing poverty,” the resolution said.
Vice-Mayor Alfredo Coro II of Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte led the signing of the Sangguniang Bayan resolution expressing their strong opposition to HB 7853.
“Contrary to their claim that the pandemic is a reason to allow commercial fishing in municipal waters, our municipal fisherfolk and coastal communities survived this pandemic because the municipal water has been their source of food and livelihood. This contributed to less crimes because people had food to eat,” the resolution stated.