Amendments to PH Fisheries Code pushed in Senate

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 September) — Senator Cynthia Villar is pushing for the passage within the next few weeks 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, said they currently fast tracking the committee hearings and deliberations for 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 they have scheduled a final committee hearing next week for the proposed bill and its submission for plenary deliberations the following week.

“The passage of the measure will be a big help to the continuing growth and development of our fisheries sector, including the tuna industry, and at the same time the protection of our marine resources,” she said at the opening of the 16th National Tuna Congress here on Thursday.

Villar noted that the country needs a strong fisheries law to properly manage fishing capacity as well as the implementation of the International Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

SB 2207 seeks to revise the code’s declaration of policy to reflect the need for the country to pursue and achieve its international commitments.

The bill’s briefer said such declaration will be revised to ensure that the management of fishery and aquatic resources will be anchored on ecosystem-based approach.

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

Villar 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.

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 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.

“The revisions or amendments of the code will complement with all these efforts and provide support to our collective goals for the fisheries sector, including the tuna industry,” Villar added.

In June, the House of Representatives already passed its own version of SB 2207 or amendments to the fisheries code.

House Bill 4536, which was authored by House Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries chair Cebu Rep. Benhur Salimbangon and Negros Oriental Rep. Pryde Henry Teves, seeks to strengthen the implementation and enforcement powers of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to protect the country’s marine resources and slaps hefty fines and longer periods of imprisonment against the violators. (MindaNews)