A new legislation, which amended Republic Act (RA) 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, takes effect this week despite opposition it gathered during its passage.

RA 10654 or “an Act that prevents, deters and eliminates illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, amending Republic Act No. 8550, otherwise known as ‘The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 and for other purposes’” lapsed into law last month on February 27. 

BFAR national director Asis G. Perez said the amendments to the Fisheries Code would further ensure the protection of the country’s marine and aquatic resources.

“The government is putting in place changes that are necessary to help the fisheries sector move forward. The law is re-echoing our goal to eradicate all forms of unsustainable resource use as these compromise not only the environment but also the long-term livelihood and employment of around 1.8 million fisheries stakeholders,” he said.

Perez admitted that enacting RA 10654 was never easy as differences of opinion surfaced during the enactment stages. Nevertheless, the government was able to convey that passing the amendments would result in an improved and better-managed fishery resource.

“Both the government and the stakeholders agreed to participate in the drafting of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Fisheries Code,” he said.

The IRR Drafting Committee will be composed of 18 representatives from the fisheries sector; nine (9) from the government sector; two (2) from the academe and; two (2) from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Among the issues that will be addressed in the IRR are the stiffer fines and penalties for serious violations and the mandatory installation of vessel monitoring system (VMS) on all domestic fishing vessels.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government through BFAR, has strengthened ties with Viet Nam in an effort to have a joint undertaking that addresses IUU fishing. The Republic of the Philippines and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam Vietnam have established a Hotline, which the two nations can use for immediate coordination on fisheries surveillance activities against IUU fishing and emergency response to distressed Filipino and Vietnamese fishermen in the high seas. Perez said the idea was hatched during the 4th Joint Committee Meeting under the Philippine-Vietnam Bilateral Cooperation in the Field in Hanoi City October last year.

“Vietnam like the Philippines is a major fishing nation and our bilateral cooperation in the field of fisheries is dictated by our common goals to manage the resources, improve the fishery industry’s condition and ensure our fishers’ welfare and safety when they go astray in the offshore fishing areas,” he said.