Fishers slam excessive fines in amended fisheries code
ILOILO CITY—Several commercial fishing operators in Iloilo have stopped their operations this month in protest of amendments to Republic Act No. 8850, or the Fisheries Code of 1998.
Arnaldo “Jun” Borres Jr., a member of the board of directors of Panay Deep Sea Fishingboat Operators Association, said they were protesting “excessive and unreasonable” fines in the amendments to the code.
The amendments have been approved by both the Senate and Congress and only need to be signed by President Aquino to become a law.
The amendments are also in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“The amendments will kill the fishing industry,” Borres told the Inquirer.
Alliance of Philippine Fishing Federations Inc. earlier issued a statement decrying the lack of “meaningful” consultation in crafting and approval of the amendments.
Borres said the fines and penalties were excessive and not commensurate with offenses especially when compared to other industries like mining and forestry.
Under the amended code, fines for lack or incomplete operating permit are from P2 million to P45 million, while those for violation of the environmental compliance are from P100,000 to P5 million, he said.
Borres said that even if they would not violate the law, they were still apprehensive of the heftier fines because these were imposed immediately even before conviction of any offense.
He said the amendments were also passed without widespread consultation among stakeholders.
Borres said they were calling on President Aquino to veto the amendments and pass amendments that had undergone consultation involving all concerned parties.
Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (Pamalakaya), a militant nationwide federation of fisherfolk, also decried the amendments.
Pamalakaya secretary general Romy Antazo said in a statement that small fisherfolk would be much more affected than big commercial fishing companies.
Antanzo said the mandated registration of fishing boat and gear with annual fees would hurt small fisherfolk who were already suffering from low catch and high operating costs.
But 14 environmental groups and nongovernment organizations have welcomed the amendments.
“We urge President Aquino to immediately sign the amendments to the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 because this policy reform will be beneficial to all stakeholders, including the municipal and the commercial fisheries subsectors,” their statement said.
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