Fishermen have declared a three-day “fish holiday” starting Tuesday as part of a campaign to delay or stop the government’s implementation of amendments to the fisheries law.
Composed mostly of small commercial fishermen, the group claims its members will lose their livelihood because of the changes made to the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.
No fish will be sold in Navotas, Bataan, Cavite, Quezon, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte markets as part of the protest action.
At a roundtable discussion, leaders of the Pederasyon ng mga Mangingisda sa Buong Pilipinas Inc. [Fishermen’s Federation of the Philippines] (PMBPI) representing mostly small-scale fishermen from all over the country said they oppose the implementation of Republic Act 10654 — an Act that Prevents, Deters Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing — amending RA 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.
Mario Pascual, PMBPI president, said the new law will be implemented anytime after September 24 when the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) will be completed and signed by President Aquino.
“We will march to the Senate and urge the senators, particularly Sen. Cynthia Villar to dialog with us and hear our sentiments,” added Teresita Dizon, treasurer of the group.
The PMBPI said the amended law was passed without proper consultation and that only 18 big commercial fishing companies were invited to craft the IRR.
The law prohibits subsistence and small commercial boats to fish within a 15-kilometer area from the coastline of the affected districts. Aside from a jail term, once caught, violators are fined P100,000, a stiff penalty according to the fishing operators.
The groups said they are urging Director Asis Perez of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to hear their complaints. They also claimed that RA 10654 was passed under pressure by the European Union so that it will lift the yellow card warning given to the Philippines.
Dizon said that when they confronted Perez on these issues, they were told to move their operations to Pag-Asa Island, the Spratlys and Benham Rise.
An official of BFAR on Tuesday denied the allegations.
Nazario Briguera, chief of the Public Information Office of BFAR, said the group of Pascual was invited to the consultations over the crafting of the IRR.
“Other sectors came. Even the academe attended the hearings and consultations but Mr. Pascual did not attend any (of the hearings),” Briguera told The Manila Times.
He added that BFAR chief lawyer Asis Perez left the office early to attend a conference in Micronesia.
Briguera also denied the allegations of Pascual’s group that fishermen’s harvests have been limited to three kilos within the 15-kilometer municipal boundaries.
He also said he was not sure if the purported offer of Perez to the fishermen to move their fishing operations elsewhere was true.
“But I think the context was that the Director was telling them other alternatives to explore and avoid overfishing [in certain areas],” he added.
Briguera stressed that the law does not at all prevent fishermen from fishing as a source of income.