Opposition of commercial fishers to the amended fisheries law could bring the country back to a possible trade ban to EU markets

Press release - July 24, 2015
Manila— A protest called Fishing Holiday orchestrated by some traders and commercial fishing operations in Manila Bay on Thursday morning showed that the main actors responsible for emptying our seas don’t want illegal fishing to end. The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 as amended by Republic Act 10654 prohibits the operation of all commercial fishers within 15 km of municipal waters, including the use of destructive and active fishing gears.

The reason why the Philippines got a yellow card trade warning from the EU is because we were identified as a possible non-cooperating country to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The Philippines could have faced a seafood trade ban to the European Union that would have cost the economy hundreds of millions of Euros.

“The amendments in the code seeks to address IUU fishing yet commercial fishing operations continue to oppose and refuse to accept stiff penalties for IUU violations,” reiterates Joann Binondo, head of Partnership Programme Towards Sustainable Tuna.

Last year the Philippine Government received a yellow card warning from the European Commission around the issue of Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.  Failure to address the problem will cost the country a whopping 173 million Euros of export to the European markets.

"The Philippines has escaped economic and reputational disaster by the skin of its teeth.  The rapid and much needed changes to the fisheries law was a key component of the lifting of the "yellow card."   The protest of the commercial fishing industry against the amended fisheries law will jeopardize the gains of the whole country against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” puts Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.

Dennis Calvan, Executive Director of NGOs for Fisheries Reform said: “A single violation of one commercial fishing boat into municipal waters robs 64 municipal fishermen of their daily catch. These players should make their fishing holiday permanent to allow our seas to recover from unabated exploitation. They are not allowed to fish there in the first place. The fish holiday is going to be good for our small fishers and for our ecosystems now that the commercial fishers illegally catching fish are out of the municipal waters. We hope that the fish would come back so that small municipal fishers will catch enough to feed their families and help our fellow fisherfolk to get out of grinding poverty.”

Cinches added, “The state of our sea is very alarming considering that 10 out of 13 fishing grounds in the country are heavily exploited and nearly overfished.  The current Aquino Administration and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, are making headway in addressing the crisis at sea.  This is made possible through partnership with fishers and civil society.  Last year, the Roadmap To Recovery was shared and made public so that a holistic approach may be used to address overfishing and marine ecosystems degradation.”

For more information:

Dennis Calvan
Executive Director
NGOs for Fisheries Reform Inc.

Vince Cinches
Oceans Campaigner
Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines

Joann P. Binondo
Overall Project Manager
PPTST – WWF Philippines