Heavier illegal fishing penalties 'oppresive' – fishers' group
MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers who proposed heavier penalties for fishing laws violations are under fire as the Alliance of Philippine Fishing Federations, Inc. described their attempt as “oppressive” and “confiscatory.”
“How can we survive that? We are not against penalties but this should be managed well. This is not commensurate to inflation,” said Bobby del Rosario, one of the members of the alliance.
The group criticized two legislative proposals – one at the House of Representatives, and another at the Senate – which are pending for deliberation on Tuesday, November 25, when the Bicameral Committee on Agriculture convenes.
House Bill (HB) 04536 inserts new penalties to chapter 6 of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, where unauthorized fishing would merit offenders with a fine of P500,000 ($11,135.86*) to P1 million ($22,271,75).
What’s more, the offender’s fishery structure “shall be dismantled or removed and confiscated." Violators also face a jail time of 4 to 6 years upon a court conviction.
The bill defines unauthorized fishing as engaging in any fishing activity without securing registration, license, lease or permit.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill (SB) 2414 proposes the offending owner, operator and 3 highest officers of a commercial fishing vessel to serve imprisonment of 6 months, confiscation of the catch, and a penalty with the same penalty range identified by HB 04536.
Both bills are intended to zero in on the country’s commitment to ensure sustainable development within the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone, according to the introductory statement of SB 2414.
On one hand, the Philippines also needs better policies to protect its aquatic resources. In June, the European Union (EU) warned the country to curb illegal, unreported, and fishing – or face an import ban, along with other world’s largest fishing nations. EU imported fishes worth 165 million euros ($204.452 million) from the Philippines in 2013.
But for the alliance’s president, the fishing industry no longer needs additional laws as form of regulation.
“These new regulations are too oppressive and confiscatory. This, despite the fact that the commercial fishing industry is already a tightly-regulated sector. Legitimate operators use only fishing methods that are not destructive to fish habitats,” said Alfonso Tan, the alliance president.
The alliance, comprised of fishing companies that supply catches across the country, gathered on Sunday, November 23, to discuss how they could provide input into the proposed amendments.
They said the proposals skipped consultation from the private sector, especially stakeholders in the fishing industry.
Earlier, they wrote to President Aquino saying the proposed measures “creates an atmosphere of distrust instead of encouraging public participation.” –Rappler.com