GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 7 September) – Senator Cynthia Villar has lauded the European Union’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP +) during the recent 23rd National Tuna Congress in this city, the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.”
She noted that under the GSP+, a special incentive arrangement for low and lower middle-income countries, the Philippines shipped products worth 2.93 billion euros (P178 billion) last year to the European Union.
Villar, the keynote speaker at the closing ceremony of the two-day tuna congress on September 2, said the country was able to avail of the GSP+ scheme owing to Republic Act 10654 or the amendment to the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, which she authored in 2015.
RA 10654 instituted the concept of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and set higher penalties and stricter sanctions to deter violators.
The IUU fishing law also prescribes the number of licenses and permits for the conduct of fishery activities, adopts the precautionary principle and mandates the balance between over-protection and over- exploitation of fisheries resources, which necessitates the installation of a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), she explained.
“The setting up of a VMS to prevent IUU fishing was a requirement by the European Union for us to avail the GSP+,” Villar said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The scheme allows the Philippines to enjoy zero tariffs on 6,274 products or 66% of all EU tariff lines.
The current GSP+ is valid until the end of 2023 but the European Commission had proposed to extend the scheme for the Philippines by another four years, or until 2027.
Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual welcomed the EC’s proposal made last July.
“With the extension of the GSP, it opens up tremendous opportunity for the Philippines to strengthen trade relations with the EU. We will seize this opportunity and work toward maximizing the benefits for our exporters and the overall economic development of our country,” he said in a statement then.
Villar said that IUU fishing protects the welfare of small fishermen inside the 15-kilometer municipal waters, where commercial fishing operation is banned.
With the onset of the El Nino and the impacts of climate change, Villar said the “tuna industry should be protected from overfishing and habitat degradation to prevent its depletion, which may lead to its collapse.”
Villar reminded that the ocean’s resources are not limitless and as such, it should be protected and sustained.
The tuna congress, which was themed “Adapting Strategies Responsive to Global Changes,” brought together experts and stakeholders to address pressing global challenges faced by the Philippine tuna industry and to promote sustainable fishing practices.
Villar said that the Philippines is the second top global exporter of tuna, next to Indonesia in Asia.
The Philippines canned tuna products are exported to the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the Netherlands, among others.
Fresh large tuna stocks are also shipped mainly to the United States and Japan. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)