Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
Environmentalist and fisherfolk groups are calling for the provision on vessel monitoring mechanism (VMM) under the amended fisheries code to be adopted and implemented so the monitoring of commercial fishing, whether in municipal waters or open seas, could be systematic and effective.
The implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 10654 – amending RA 8550 or the Philippines Fisheries Code of 1998 – signed on Sept. 22, 2015, requires that VMM technology be installed in all commercial fishing vessels at least 3.1 gross tons.
More than two years have passed and commercial fishing in municipal waters remains prevalent nationwide because of the sheer size of coastal waters needed to be monitored by police and coast guard personnel, including Bantay Dagat patrols.
Lawyer Liza Osorio of the Philippine Earth Justice Center cites the example of the Tañon Strait, a protected area with a general management plan that prohibits commercial fishing. “A good example of commercial fishers depriving small fishers of their daily catch and livelihood in municipal waters is in Tañon Strait, between Cebu and Negros islands. It is only 27 kilometers at its widest, hence commercial fishing is simply illegal since all of its waters would fall under municipal waters,” she said.
Leaders of 35 small fishers associations belonging to the Tañon Strait fisherfolk’s federation recently asked Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Region 7 to speed up the crafting and promulgation of the rules requiring all commercial vessels transiting and docking in Tañon Strait to install appropriate VMM device as required by RA 10654. They said it will help BFAR restore harmony in the strait, ensuring its protection against commercial fishing and providing them sustained livelihood, food and income for their families.
The sooner that the Department of Agriculture’s BFAR can implement the rules that harnesses technology to protect our fisheries and promote harmony among fishermen in a more systematic and effective manner, the better it can do its job. Is there a reason why it is taking its time with the vehicle monitoring mechanism?*