PH to intensify seaborne patrol

The Philippine government will intensify its seaborne patrol through a strengthened partnership between the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

The Department of Agriculture's BFAR and PNP's Maritime Group (PNP-MG) have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) granting personnel of PNP the right to embark on any BFAR available vessel as “shiprider” to conduct joint seaborne patrol.

Under the MOU, BFAR shall act as lead agency in the enforcement of fisheries and marine conservation laws while PNP-MG shall provide personnel to augment the bureau’s workforce in the conduct of seaborne patrol operations, particularly in the aspect of law enforcement and investigation.

"The signing of the memorandum will intensify the efforts of the two government agencies in enforcing fishery laws including conservation and management measures and marine conservation laws in Philippine seas to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal fishing activities and to protect the marine environment of the area from overexploitation," BFAR said in the statement.

Addressing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity is a long-standing commitment of the government starting with the amendment of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. Republic Act 10654, otherwise known as “An Act to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing”, provides higher penalties for apprehended fishermen and boat owners while mandating better monitoring systems to stop IUU fishing.

According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) report, up to 40 percent of the fish caught and distributed in the Philippines in 2019 came from IUU. This translates to approximately P62 billion in value annually. Moreover, at least 30,000 or 30 percent of municipal vessels remain unregistered, and commercial fishers do not report up to 422,000 metric tons of fish each year.

As of September 2021, BFAR Fisheries Protection and Law Enforcement Group reported a total of 489 apprehensions, including 436 fishing vehicles comprising of municipal boats, and small, medium, and large commercial fishing vessels.

BFAR further said that it has been upgrading its law enforcement capability program with cutting edge technology such as visible infrared imaging radiometer suite (VIIRS) and Integrated Marine Environment Monitoring System (IMEMS).

Both VIIRS and IMEMS are designed to amplify the government’s monitoring, control and surveillance of the country’s coastal waters and Exclusive Economic Zone.

"With these projects being carried out, BFAR and PNP-MG are optimistic that IUU fishing will be stopped in Philippine waters to ensure the safety of our fisherfolk and the conservation of our marine resources," BFAR said.