Advocacy group wants DA-BFAR to promulgate rules to protect local fisherfolk
The group Oceana Philippines on Friday asked the Supreme Court to compel the government to promulgate rules on vessel monitoring measures (VMM), which fishermen said has adversely affected the country’s marine resources as well as the livelihood of local fisherfolk.
In a 50-page motion, Oceana, together with the fishermen from Navotas urged the high court to issue a continuing mandamus requiring the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) to comply with what is set under the Fisheries Code as amended and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).
The law requires the DA-BFAR to determine within one year from the effectivity of the IRR the appropriate vessel monitoring technology and corresponding schedule to cover commercial fishing vessels weighing 3.1 to 30 gross tons (GT) and promulgate the corresponding rules and regulations on VMM conditions, terms of reference, confidentiality, mechanics, cost, installation, approved types and restrictions affected their livelihood.
The IRR took effect Oct. 10, 2015. However, after three years, the DA-BFAR has failed “to carry out their duties specifically enjoined by law and their respective offices.”
The petitioners said unless the Supreme Court intervenes and compel the respondents to do their duties “the adverse impact on our marine resources and habitats, fisheries and municipal fisherfolk will continue unabated.”
A writ of continuing mandamus can be issued by the SC on environmental case that would direct a government agency to perform an act until the judgment is fully met.
Petitioners also urged the high court to issue a Temporary Environmental Protection Order stopping DA-BFAR from giving new licenses or renew commercial fishing vessels while the case is pending in court.
“DA-BFAR’s failure to carry out the duties specifically enjoined by law has adversely affected the country’s marine resources, fisheries and the livelihood of artisanal fisherfolk,” Oceana said in a statement.
Under the Fisheries Code, as amended by RA 10654 or the Fisheries Code of 1998, all commercial fishing vessels are covered by the vessel monitoring requirement. It is unlawful for any catcher vessel to operate and engage in fishing activity without complying with the VMM that the DA-BFAR is required to make.
“Illegal commercial fishing within municipal waters continues to compete unfairly and illegally with our artisanal fisherfolks and compounds the overfishing. Hence, we have taken this legal recourse,” said the petitioners who are being represented by veteran lawyer Chel Diokno, who is gunning for a Senate seat next year. /jpv
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