PH, Jakarta eye revival of fishing agreement

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The Philippines and Indonesia have initiated fresh talks that could signal  revival of a bilateral fishing agreement that lapsed in 2006, with both countries agreeing to strengthen cooperation in information exchange and enforcement to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) in their respective territorial waters and fishing grounds.

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Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala met with Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), while he was in Jakarta recently to take part in the World Economic Forum and its adjunct event called Grow Asia Agricultural Forum.

Alcala said the Indonesian official agreed to his suggestion to have both parties convene a technical working group that will meet “at the soonest possible time” to flesh out the issues, including the concerns of Filipino-owned fishing companies in Indonesia regarding MMAF’s strict enforcement of its policies and regulations.

Earlier this year, Pudjiastuti announced she would not issue new licenses to foreign fishing companies in a bid to protect Indonesia’s territorial waters and fishing grounds from illegal fishing.

The fisheries ministry also wants to impose a 100-percent Indonesian manning on foreign-owned fishing vessels with licenses to fish in Indonesian waters.

These new policies from Indonesia’s six-month old administration have affected a number of Filipino-owned companies operating in the country.

Some reports indicated that a number of Filipino-owned but Indonesian-flagged fishing vessels have temporarily suspended operations in Indonesia while waiting for clarification on the new government policies.

Alcala said while the Indonesian minister made it clear that these policies are not likely to change anytime soon, she assured him that Filipino personnel of confiscated and apprehended boats would be “well-taken care of.”

“It was a very constructive, sincere exchange of ideas about what should be done about a matter that concerns both our countries,” he noted.

According to Alcala,  Indonesia was particularly concerned about the economic and environmental impact of poaching as illegal fishers are “not only getting our fish, but also wildlife” such as turtles and corals.

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