Navotas fishermen’s call to compel gov’t to impose vessel monitoring rules junked
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the petition filed by the Navotas fishermen and an international advocacy group seeking to compel the government to promulgate rules on vessel monitoring measures (VMM) to address illegal, unregulated fishing specifically of commercial fishing vessels.
In a full-court resolution made public Wednesday, the high court said it cannot interfere with the administrative discretion of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The high court explained that a writ of mandamus is issued only to require a government agency to perform its ministerial duty.
In this case, however, the high court explained that “promulgation of fisheries policies and regulations is not a ministerial duty and entails the exercise of the respondents’ technical expertise and judgment in light of numerous considerations, which include the possible impact on aquatic resources and marine ecosystem.”
The petition for a continuing mandamus was filed in 2018 by fishermen Arnulfo Febria, Edgardo Leongson, and Bernardo Rondon Jr, and Oceana Philippines International. They want the high court to compel both the DA and BFAR to enforce monitoring rules for fishing vessels weighing 3.1 to 30 gross tons.
The petitioners also asked the SC to direct the DA and BFAR to draft rules for Vessel Monitoring Measures (VMM), a system for tracking the location of vessels. It is mandated under the amended Fisheries Code and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
The fishermen complained that unregulated and unmonitored operations of commercial fishing vessels have led to dwindling catch as these big vessels allegedly encroach into municipal waters reserved for small-time fishermen.
But the high court, in the same resolution, said the claims of inaction against illegal fishing are “unsubstantiated.”
It added that petitioners also failed to state “any direct injury they suffered will sustain due to the respondents’ alleged inaction.”