The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) was urged to recall its recent order that sets the guidelines for the establishment of the management board and subsidiary bodies for Fisheries Management Areas (FMA).
In a statement, international non-government organization Oceana said BFAR’s Fisheries Office Order (FOO) No. 10, series of 2021 will limit the participation of local government units (LGU), fisherfolks, and key stakeholders in the 12 FMAs in the country.
The order, according to the group, paves the way for the rotation of the Chair of the Management Body of FMA among the covered BFAR Regional Offices and exclusion of the Co-Chairperson as representative from LGUs.
Oceana said this is not practicable because the other BFAR Regional Offices are already tasked to lead other FMAs, and that this might derail the activities and timeline of the FMAs, whose Management Body members have worked tirelessly amidst these difficult times.
“This may pose a problem because not being a member of the management body, the other BFAR-Regional Directors cannot act as an alternate as they do not have such capacity, and familiarity with a particular FMA,” Oceana’s Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said.
“This also leaves the local chief executive as a co-chair of the Management Body merely on paper and disregards the power, authority, and indispensable role of local authorities in sustainable fisheries management,” she added.
Under the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 263, the local chief executive presides over the meetings in the absence of the Management Body chair which is the lead BFAR Regional Office Regional Director.
“This is in accordance with Section 6 of the FAO 263 that provides that the
Management Body shall be co-chaired by a Local Chief Executive representing the Local Government Units,” Oceana’s Fisheries Management and Campaign Research Manager Rhea Yray-Frossard said.
FAO 263 also provides the location and boundaries of the 12 delineated FMAs, which were established based on considerations of stocks boundary, range, and distribution of fisheries.
It encouraged all coastal LGUs and key stakeholders as fisheries managers to take on shared responsibilities for the conservation and sustainable management of fishery resources.
“I was also surprised by this order that the role of local government units is suddenly clipped,” said Mayor Jean Te of Libertad, Antique.
“We share as much responsibility in making sure our municipal water is protected and our fisheries are sustainably managed. Why are we suddenly being left out of the picture?” she added.
Te also serves as co-chair of the Management Body of FMA Area 5.