Vice Presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. today backed calls for a review of the alleged adverse impact of the amended Philippines Fisheries Code (RA 10654) on small fisher folks as well as small and medium commercial fishermen.
“While the avowed purpose of the new law—to curb illegal fishing practices and ensure a healthy and thriving marine ecosystems for our generation and the future---we have been hearing complaints that its implementation would put small fishermen at a disadvantage,” Marcos noted.
Among others, Marcos said a provision in the law that allows large commercial fishing operation to operate within the 15-kilometer municipal waters as long as the water is at least 7-fathom deep will hurt small fisher folks.
“The municipal water is supposedly reserved for small fisher folks. If we allow big commercial fishing operation in this area it would hurt further our small fishermen,” Marcos said.
Marcos likewise said the heavy emphasis the law puts on hacienda-like aquaculture production reduce the area of communal fishing grounds of small fishermen, contribute to the destruction of mangrove forests and could contribute to water pollution.
He noted that based on the data of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) prior to the implementation of the original Fisheries Code in 1998, the aquaculture sector only composed 35% of the country’s total fishery products.
But Marcos said that in 2012, it soared to 52% or more than half while municipal fishing dropped from 33% to 26%, and commercial fishing from 31% to 21%.
“Aquaculture can help us achieve food security but it must be properly regulated to protect the welfare of small fishermen and protect the environment,” said Marcos.
Fishermen have also protested against the imposition of fees for fishing permits, boats, and equipment and the requirement to install tracking gadget in their vessel that would enable monitoring of their compliance to restrictions under their permits.
Instead of merely imposing restrictions on fishing, Marcos said the government should expand programs to assist them, particularly the small fishermen.
Marcos said that similar to his platform for agriculture, expanded credit facilities should be made available to allow small fishermen to upgrade their boats and equipment or start a small business of their own.
Likewise, he said the government must focus infrastructure programs in support of the fishing industry such as concrete wharves, cold storage facilities, roads to market, as well as improved weather advisory support to ensure the safety of small fishermen.
“We must take care of our fishermen, particularly the small ones, because they provide a significant contribution to our country’s food security,” Marcos said.