SONA 2023

Marcos wants PH fisheries code amendment to ‘protect fisherfolk, resources’

Iya Gozum

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Marcos wants PH fisheries code amendment to ‘protect fisherfolk, resources’

SOURCE OF LIVELIHOOD. Fishing is a primary livelihood and food source for over 2,600 residents of Manamoc, an island barangay in the fourth-class town of Cuyo in Palawan. Photo by Jackson Zumarraga

Jackson Zumarraga

(1st UPDATE) Some fisherfolk oppose the proposed amendments, saying efforts should be focused on evaluating the implementation of the law

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday, July 24, urged Congress to support his plan to revise the Republic Act No. 10654 or the amended Fisheries Code to “protect both the interests of our fisherfolk and our fisheries and aquatic resources.”

Marcos, who said this in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), is hopeful that introducing amendments to the law would make it more science-based but did not specify the revisions that should be made to achieve this.

“We will seek the support of Congress to amend the Code to guarantee sustainable development of our fisheries sector in harmony with environmental balance,” he said.

The Fisheries Code was first amended in 2014 to “prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”

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FULL TEXT: President Marcos’ State of the Nation Address 2023

FULL TEXT: President Marcos’ State of the Nation Address 2023
Contentions to amendments

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said it was “obvious” that Marcos’ announcement during his SONA was “the result of the continuous lobbying of big-fishing firms to operate within the municipal waters.”

Municipal waters, or areas within 15 kilometers from the shoreline, is a boundary in the law intended to help the livelihood of small-scale and subsistence fisherfolk. 

“There can be no ‘harmonization’ between the municipal fishers and commercial fishing vessels because the latter outcompetes the traditional and backward method of fishing. Equipped with sophisticated, if not destructive fishing technology, big fishing vessels can exploit the fishery and marine resources in just a couple of fishing operations,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday, July 25. 

Pamalakaya said it “outrightly rejects” the proposed amendment, challenging instead the President – who is concurrently agriculture secretary – to hold a dialogue with the sector and “hear out” the basis for their objection.

Environmental group Oceana Philippines expressed concerns over the proposed amendment of the law, citing the lack of consultations with affected sectors, especially with municipal fisherfolk.

The group demanded transparency, especially from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the commercial fishing sector, on the possible major revisions to the law.

“It is more disconcerting to know that the direction of the changes that BFAR and the commercial fishing sector are pushing is to allow the unrestricted access of commercial fishing sector to catch fish within municipal waters, through an amendment to Section 18,” said Liza Osorio, Oceana’s legal and policy director.

The group, along with municipal fisherfolk, signed a joint statement on May 17, objecting to the consultations being held at the Swiss Belhotel Blulane in Manila.

“We believe that there is no urgent need for drastic amendments; rather, it is more essential to implement the law. We must also evaluate the implementation status of the existing law at the very least,” they said in their statement.

“Without this evaluation, it becomes challenging to make an informed decision on whether legislative solutions are indeed necessary, or if legislation is the appropriate solution to address the existing problems in our fisheries,” they added. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.