LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 4 (PNA) -- The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is adding this year hundreds more to its scanty number of fisheries law enforcers to boost the implementation of protective measures for the country’s major fishing grounds against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF), according to the agency’s top official.
At present, BFAR has only 240 enforcers nationwide and it is hiring 700 more to maximize patrol and protection coverage of the Philippine archipelago’s 2,200-square-kilometer marine water area -- including exclusive economic zones (EEZ) against IUUF, a statement on Thursday said.
From this total area, the country’s fisheries industry produces around 2.5 million metric tons (MT) of fish yearly for direct human consumption and for export valued at about USD84 million — a contribution to food security and national economy that should be fully protected, according to BFAR, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The multiplied enforcer deployment is part of the 2016-2020 Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) crafted by the DA and BFAR which is now ready for implementation, Asis Perez, DA undersecretary for fisheries and BFAR national director, said in the statement.
The five-year plan was launched Wednesday at the Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC) in Pasay City — an event that coincided with the First Bangus Congress and the roll-out of the bureau’s major development programs.
The CNFIDP 2016-2020 is a product of a consensus-building via three-part series of fisheries stakeholders’ workshops in capture fisheries, aquaculture, post-harvest and, marketing subsectors.
“With a plan crafted by the stakeholders for the fisheries industry through participatory approach, we are very confident that we will be seeing a more improved and globally competitive Philippine fisheries in the next five years,” Perez said in the statement.
The CNFIDP will serve its purpose of promoting optimal development and long-term sustainability of benefits derived from fisheries and aquatic resources, Perez said.
Equipped with an all-inclusive fisheries industry plan, he also announced that BFAR got an increase in budget from last year’s PHP6.3 billion-PHP6.7 billion under the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which, he said, will be utilized in funding tailor-fitted livelihood programs and projects for the fisheries sector.
On top of this year's priority projects is the completion of more than 500 Community Fish Landing Centers (CFLCs) in strategic coastal communities to reduce fisheries post-harvest losses from 25 percent to 18 percent or even lower.
Both existing and remaining CFLCs target to improve the socio-economic conditions of fisherfolk communities with high poverty incidence.
This year, Perez said BFAR continues to provide targeted interventions for fisherfolk with the aid of its enhanced registries.
Since its launching in 2013, from 50,000 fisherfolks, the National Program for Municipal Fisherfolk Registration or FishR has now registered over 1.6 million.
Also, an offshoot of the FishR program, the on-going National Program for Municipal Fishing Vessels and Gears Registration or BoatR, which started from zero, has already registered over 138,000 municipal fishing vessels.
Perez said the creation of both fisheries registries is based on the premise that what gets measured gets managed.
Taking off from last year’s increase in the overall fisheries production by 1.80 percent during the third quarter owing to the continued rise in tuna production, the bureau aims to further achieve good performance both in fisheries production as well as in the management of the country’s aquatic resources.
The government’s resolve to further prevent and deter, if not totally eliminate, IUUF remains strong and will be stronger this year with the additional enforcers, Perez said.
Such resolve, he said, is more inspired by last year’s revocation by the European Union (EU) of it “yellow card” warning issued to the Philippines in June 2014 regarding measures to fight illegal fishing.
The “yellow card” is a formal notice to the Philippines and advised the country to fulfill its commitment in deterring and preventing IUUF to avoid the possibility of being identified as a non-cooperating country in the international fight against this uncalled for practices that are considered abusive of fisheries resources.
The lifting of the warning is EU’s acknowledgement of Philippines’ efforts to partner up with the Union in fighting IUUF, reflected by the significant progress made in its policy and structural reforms, most notably the passing on Feb. 27, 2014 of Republic Act (RA) 10654, which amended the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, otherwise known as RA 8550.
With this law, the government has put in place changes that are necessary to help the fisheries sector move forward as it re-echoes BFAR’s goal to eradicate all forms of unsustainable resource use that compromise not only the long-term employment and livelihood of fisher folks and other industry stakeholders but also the environment.
Among the issues addressed in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10654 are the stiffer fines and penalties for serious violations and the mandatory installation of vessel monitoring system (VMS) on all domestic fishing vessels.
The Philippine government through the DA has expressed its satisfaction over the EU’s decision which came as a formal recognition of the Aquino Administration’s commitment to put an end to unsustainable fishing practices. (PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD