Special law for handline fishing gets bicameral OK

Bayani Fredeluces, executive director of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., expressed optimism President Gloria Arroyo will sign the bill into law soon.

“We hope it will become a law before the end of the year,” he said, noting that the President had expressed support for a special handline fishing law during a meeting with industry leaders in December last year.

Fredeluces said the senator-members of the bicameral committee have affixed their signature to the bill.

In the House of Representatives,  representatives Darlene Antonio-Custodio and Luis Villafuerte have affixed their signatures and the others are expected to follow, he added.

Roger Lim Sr., vice chair of the Alliance of Tuna Handliners, described the bicameral committee’s endorsing of the proposed special law as a “victory of the handline tuna fishermen.”

“The future of the handline tuna industry is looking bright because (once the bill is signed into law by President Gloria Arroyo) it eases the limitations set upon us,” he said.

The alliance is composed of owners of over 2,500 large pump boats employing at least 40,000 fishers with an annual landing catch of some 30,000 metric tons of high value tuna worth P4.5 billion, industry records showed.

With a special law on handline fishing, Lim said the handline tuna sector would eventually become a “sunshine industry” and that it will finally push the government to finally helping marginalized handline fishermen.

He added that handline fishing employs hook and line and, thus is one of the best ways in catching large and matured tuna and marlins.

Lobbying for a special law on handline fishing gained support from the United States government, through its Growth with Equity in Mindanao program.

Last week, the Senate approved on third and final reading the proposed special law proposed two years ago.

The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., Mar Roxas and Senate President Manuel Villar.

Senator Magsaysay, committee chair, delivered a sponsorship speech two weeks at the plenary session for Senate Bill 2522 or “An Act Defining Handline Fishing, Providing Effective Regulations and for Other Purposes.”

He said the Senate approval of the bill “is an important step towards promoting competitiveness, sustainability and development of the tuna fishing industry,” the bulk of which is concentrated in this city dubbed as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.”

The House version (Handline Fishing Law or House Bill 4067) sponsored by South Cotabato 1st district Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio, had been approved earlier.

Fredeluces said the special law seeks to lessen the manning requirements among handline fishing boats.

“Once the law is approved, boat captains would no longer be required to have a license,” he explained.

Dario Lauron, chairman of the Alliance of Tuna Handliners, said the passage of a tuna handline law would mean a lot to the handline tuna players as it also seeks to give weight to traditional fishing practices and small fisherfolk by defining handline commercial fishing boat and commercial net fishing vessel.