After 6 years, still no IRR for handline fishing law

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 7 Sept) – After six years, the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the law governing the handline tuna sector is yet to be finalized.

Rosanna Bernadette Contreras, executive director of the Socksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII), said that Republic Act 9379 signed on March 8, 2007 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo still lacks the implementing guidelines that would help boost the growth of the handline sector.

Handline fishing is a traditional method that employs hook and line to catch large mature tuna, including the sashimi-grade, mostly sold in the markets of Japan, Europe and the United States.

“The lack of IRR is a long time issue that we want settled because this is crucial to the operation of our handline tuna industry players,” Contreras said.

She said that the issues involving the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) have already been settled but those involving the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) has yet to be ironed out.

Contreras said they are expecting the Marina to finalize the issues involving its part in the IRR in the next two months.

Raul Gonzales, spokesman of the Alliance of Tuna Handliners, stressed the IRR was long overdue.

“The IRR is important to help chart the future of the tuna industry. We would have the guidelines to help our operations,” he told reporters.

Gonzalez said that in the absence of the IRR, their fishing vessels have been prone to apprehension by maritime authorities.

“If we have the IRR, we can avoid these apprehensions by following the guidelines,” he noted.

At the culmination of the 15th National Tuna Congress on Saturday, organizers passed anew a resolution requesting the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to expedite the issuance of the IRR of the Handline Fishing Law.

BFAR is an agency under the DA while Marina is under the DOTC.

The handline law requires BFAR and Marina to promulgate simplified policies and
procedures governing handline fishing, in consultation with industry stakeholders.

Lobbying for a special law on handline fishing took about three years, spearheaded by the Alliance of Tuna Handliners, until Arroyo signed it in 2007.

The alliance then described the approval of the Handline Fishing Law as “a victory for the handline tuna fishermen.”

Prior to the law’s approval, handline fishing players lamented that handline pump boats are in the same category with big commercial fishing vessels.

They said the handline law is significant because it also seeks to give weight to traditional fishing practices and small fishermen by defining handline commercial fishing boat and commercial net fishing vessel.

An estimated 1,500 fishing boats are engaged in the handline fishing industry, down from 4,000 boats about a decade ago.