Fisherfolk from different provinces trooped to Manila on Wednesday to hold one of several expected “fish holidays” as part of protest actions against the decision of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to implement the amended Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.
More than a thousand fishermen trooped to the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. The protesters came from Navotas, Malabon and the provinces of Bicol region, Masbate, Quezon, Marinduque, Pangasinan and Cavite.
BFAR Director lawyer Asis Perez said in an interview that the agency expects to finalize the Implementing rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Fisheries Code or Republic Act 8550 as amended by RA 10654 next week.
“We are hoping that within September this year the IRR will be complete so that we could effectively implement the law against illegal fishing activities,” Perez told reporters.
The BFAR chief stressed that the government maintains its position to support the growth of the fishing industry — from all scales to every sub-sector.
“We are working so as to attain inclusive growth… that every stakeholder reap the fruits of progress and no one is left behind,” he said.The official said that the government is only hastening the full and proper implementation of the regulations of RA 8550 in such a way that RA 10654 will enact its deterrent effect against those engaged in illegal and unsustainable fishing practices.
Among the rules opposed by the fishermen is the provision that bans commercial fishers from fishing and using fish nets and other destructive and active fishing gears within 15 kilometers of municipal waters.
The fisherfolk also said that the provision bans fishing in the entire Manila Bay because the 15-kilometer municipal waters of the local government units in the area are overlapping.
Under the revised law, the penalties imposed for violation of the Fisheries Code were raised from between P10,000 and P500,000 to P500,000 to P10-million range.
Perez said that with the revised fisheries law, the government reemphasizes its call to eradicate all forms of unsustainable use of marine resources that are detrimental to the ecosystem and to the welfare of fisherfolk who depend on these resources.
“The agency shares the fisherfolk’s interest to make sure that there is continuous fishing and consistent growth in the industry. If they are not doing anything illegal, why should they be afraid?” he said.
He also said that the government recognizes the sentiments of the fisheries sector—particularly, the fisherfolk. However, the official also believes that this would only be possible if all stakeholders will prevent all forms of activities that jeopardize the sustainability of the country’s marine and aquatic resources.
“It is the government’s role to protect the livelihood of the Filipino fisherfolk but it is also the government’s responsibility to ensure the sustainability and conservation of our fishery resources,” he added.