Commercial fishing operators to SC: Affirm unconstitutionality of FAO 266 | Inquirer News

Commercial fishing operators to SC: Affirm unconstitutionality of FAO 266

/ 08:30 PM October 11, 2023


 (ERWIN MASCARIÑAS / file photo)

MANILA, Philippines –  Commercial fishing operators urged the Supreme Court (SC) to affirm the regional trial court’s ruling that nullified the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 266.

The SC is conducting an oral argument on the petitions filed by the government through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the environment advocacy group Oceana.


FAO 266 is a regulatory measure that implements the Vessel Monitoring System and Electronic Reporting System, which was enacted to comply with the implementation of various conservation and management measures under the Regional Fisheries  Management Organizations and other International Fisheries Commissions, of which the Philippines is a signatory.


While the order was issued for the purpose of fighting illegal fishing, commercial fishing companies believe that the information to be recorded and reported— such as the position of the vessel where the fish was caught and the date and time of vessel activity — were sensitive information and part of their trade secrets and proprietary information.

In June 2021, the Malabon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 170 issued a permanent injunction against the implementation of FAO 266, declaring it null and void for being unconstitutional.

This is now the subject of petitions filed with the SC by the government and a non-government organization, Oceana Philippines, against the three commercial fishing operators.

Fishing companies Royal Fishing Corporation, Bonanza Fishing and Market Resources, Inc., and RBL Fishing Corporation, through their counsel Atty. Arnold D. Naval said the lower court was correct in its ruling as the order violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution by regulating only commercial fishing vessels and leaving the regulation of municipal fishing vessels to the discretion of local government units. FAO 266 was also issued without public consultation and delineation of municipal waters, which also violated the constitutional right of fishing companies to due process.

The fishing companies asserted that FAO 266 violates a spectrum of their constitutional rights, including privacy, protection against unlawful searches, the equal protection clause, due process, and participation in decision-making processes.

“Once BFAR installs the VMS, it will have unrestricted power to access sensitive information to monitor the location and activities of the fishing vessels. This violates the commercial fishing operators’ constitutional rights to privacy and unlawful searches, among others,” he said during the oral argument Tuesday.


“This special knowledge and skill, along with all the sensitive information, form part of a fishing company’s priceless intellectual properties entitled to protection and privilege. Their exposure to unwarranted observation and prejudicial disclosure will result in irreparable injury,” Naval said.

Earlier, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra argued that declaring the administrative order unconstitutional has left the government “defenseless against the decline and deterioration of the country’s marine resources and ineffective in the enforcement of the right of the people for imbalance and helpful ecology. It stands to suffer economically for failure to comply with the traceability requirements of countries to which our fisheries products are exported.”

He added that US$320 million worth of fish products bound for Europe every year are also in danger of being rejected if the Philippine government fails to certify that such fish products were not caught through illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUUF).    

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READ: Gov’t lawyers urge SC to reverse Malabon court decision to save fishing trade

The oral argument will continue on November 21.


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TAGS: Fishing, Supreme Court

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