Don’t ratify ILO treaty on commercial fishing yet, gov’t asked

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/09 September) — Citing the country’s fishing fleets are still largely composed of artisan or small traditional fishing vessels, tuna industry players here urged the national government to defer its ratification of an International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention that sets new international standards on working conditions in commercial fishing operations.

Rosanna Bernadeth Contreras, executive director of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAII), said the industry is not yet ready to comply with the provisions of ILO Convention 188 or the Work in Fishing Convention of 2007 as it would require a major overhaul and upgrading of local fishing fleets.

“We need enough time to study the implications of the ILO Convention because there are provisions that are difficult for us to comply right now. So what’s the use of the law if it can’t be implemented immediately?” she said in a press conference.

Contreras specifically noted the provision on structural standards that set a minimum area or size for fishing boats involved in commercial operations.

She said local tuna fishing fleets, especially those employed by fishing companies based in this city, are mostly composed of small pump boats and motorized fishing vessels.

ILO Convention 188, which was adopted during the 96th International Labor Conference in 2007, mainly seeks “to ensure that fishers have decent conditions of work on board fishing vessels.”

An ILO briefer said the Convention covers the minimum requirements for work on board fishing vessels; conditions of service; accommodation and food; occupational safety and health protection; and, medical care and social security.

The Convention, which applies to all fishers and fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing operations, addresses various subject areas, among them “the responsibilities of fishing vessel owners and skippers for the safety of the fishers on board and the safety of the vessels; minimum age for work on board fishing vessels; fishers’ work agreements; repatriation; recruitment and placement of fishers; and, payment of fishers.”

As of last July, the convention was already ratified by Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco and South Africa.

At the 15th National Tuna Congress here over the weekend, the delegates adopted a resolution requesting the government to defer the ratification of ILO Convention 188 and its accompanying ILO Recommendation 199.

They specifically sought for the deferment “pending a favorable consensus among all stakeholders has been attained after an in-depth impact assessment and comprehensive consultation process.”

Dominic Salazar, chair of SFFAII’s program and resolution committee, said they are not much concerned about the Convention’s wage and salary provisions as local fishing companies mainly employ a sharing scheme with their workers.

“The provisions on wage don’t matter (to us) but we’re more concerned on the fact that most of our operations and fishing boats are still considered as traditional,” he said.

Salazar said the national government should first study whether the country, in general, can comply with the Convention’s provisions.

“There are actually provisions that are difficult even for BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) to comply,” he stressed.

He added that the national government needs first to capacitate BFAR with regards to the Convention’s implementation by employing more trained inspectors and other necessary personnel. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)