The number of commercial vessels fishing in municipal waters across different parts of the Philippines has gone down, but only a mere decline of 4.7 percent despite the pandemic, international marine conservation group Oceana observed.
Data released by Oceana showed commercial fishing in municipal waters pervades from 44,952 vessels in 2019 to 42,934 vessels in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Oceana reports the seemingly continuing intrusion of commercial fishing vessels in the designated 15-kilometer from the shoreline municipal waters that is exclusive to municipal and artisanal fisherfolk, as prescribed by the Amended Fisheries Code or RA 10654,” Oceana said.
“Illegal commercial fishing has long been the source of misery of artisanal fisherfolks who are counted among the poorest of the poor. The municipal waters are reserved for their preferential use and access under the Constitution and the Fisheries Code as amended,” it added.
Palawan topped the list of provinces with the most number of commercial vessels, or around 6,202, observed there. Masbate followed with 5,721 vessels observed in 2020.
For both 2019 and 2020, Zamboanga City has been consistently on top of the cities and municipalities with the highest number of night light detections inside the municipal waters, followed by Tongkil in Sulu, Milagros and San Pascual in Masbate, and then Hadji Muhammad Ajul to complete the top five local governments.
Oceana recently presented the new and improved features of Karagatan Patrol in a forum with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“The DILG is calling on coastal local government units that they perform their mandates in relation to the implementation of our environmental and fisheries laws and our issuances have focused on providing guidelines on implementing fisheries laws in municipal waters and the auditing of local government units’ compliance based on the Fisheries Compliance Audit,” said Undersecretary for Peace and Order Bernardo Florece, Jr. during the forum.
“During this time of the pandemic, it is important that our coastal resources are protected to continue supporting our country’s need for food and livelihood for coastal communities. We support Oceana’s continuing efforts to highlight the need to address illegal fishing through Karagatan Patrol,” he added.
Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said the citizens’ transparency platform is now equipped with new functions to help government enforcement agencies, local government units, and other stakeholders in the monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities in the Philippine water.
“The Fisheries Administrative Order 266 that mandates the installation of vessel monitoring measures was signed by Agriculture Secretary William Dar in October 2020. We are urging the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to fully implement it to deter illegal, reckless, and irresponsible behavior in our waters,” Ramos said.
“The data from Karagatan Patrol only serve as leads to law enforcement agencies but tracking of the location, identification of the offenders, arrest and seizure, filing of cases in court and getting the violators penalized are facilitated if the vessel monitoring system is in place,” she added.