Revisions to Fisheries Code crucial for PHL to keep EU market–Villar

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/09 May)– In a bid to keep the country’s fisheries exports, including tuna, in the European markets, Senator Cynthia Villar is pushing for the passage within this month of the proposed amendments to Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

Villar, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture and food, asked the Senate earlier this week for the urgent passage of Senate Bill (SB) 2207, which mainly seeks to make the fisheries code at par with other countries, especially on conservation measures for threatened aquatic species, highly migratory species and other marine resources.

She said the proposed amendments will address the requirements set by the European Union (EU) for countries exporting fisheries and other marine products to its markets.

“We need to pass the amendments to the code so that our marine exports to the EU will not be affected by an audit scheduled in June,” said Villar, who graced the three-day 17th National Dairy Congress and Expo here.

Villar said the proposed amendments include the revision of the code’s declaration of policy to reflect the need for the country to pursue and achieve its international commitments.

She said such declaration will be revised to ensure that the management of fishery and aquatic resources will be anchored on ecosystem-based approach.

The amendments also covered portions of the provisions regarding the prohibitions and fine for its violators, she said.

“We need to observe international treaty obligations on food safety: to curb illegal, unreported, unauthorized and unregulated fishing, and to comply with conservation and management measures,” Villar said in her earlier sponsorship speech for SB 2207.

Last month, Villar’s committee held a consultation with tuna industry players here regarding the proposed amendments to the fisheries code.

This city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries and a number of micro, small and medium processing ventures.

In the past years, the EU had been conducting regular audits on the country’s fisheries sector, specifically on the compliance to international food safety and fishery regulations.

The audit, which focused on the compliance to the standard on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and the traceability system in line with the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) campaign, covered tuna canning and processing companies here that were exporting their products to the EU.

On December 6, 2013, President Benigno S. Aquino III signed Executive Order 154 that adopted the Philippine National Plan of Action on IUUF and created the Philippine Committee on IUUF to oversee its implementation.

The Philippine National Plan of Action on IUUF covered nine sections, describing illegal fishing activities in the country as well as actions to curb IUUF that include measures on coastal state, flag state and port state. (MindaNews)