Fishers decry ‘excessive penalties’ of Fisheries Code

Fishers decry ‘excessive penalties’ of Fisheries Code

Bacoor City, Cavite — The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) decries the excessive penalty imposed to its local members in Cavite who were caught by the Maritime Police, when their fishing boat reached the municipal waters of Parañaque yesterday.

According to Myrna Candinato, PAMALAKAYA’s local spokesperson in Bacoor, she was compelled to pay a total of P1, 500 at the office of the Maritime Police in Parañaque City after three fishermen who brought her fishing boat offshore for a regular fishing trip have ‘unconsciously’ reached the municipal waters of Parañaque.

But the fisherfolk group was also questioning the apprehending authorities on why they have even confiscated the catch of the three fishermen, which was more than 5 kilos of squid or equivalent to a total of P1,900.

“Nagbayad na nga kami ng multa, bakit kinumpiska pa yung mga huling isda na katumbas na sana ng isang araw naming kita. Walang resibo yung mga pusit na kinumpiska ng Maritime Police kaya tinitingnan namin ito bilang isang tipo ng pangongotong sa dagat,” Candinato decried.

PAMALAKAYA has been protesting the implementation of the amended Fisheries Code under the Republic Act 10654 for imposing exorbitant fees and taxes among the small fisherfolk. The group warned before that its enforcement could be used as ‘money making scheme’ by unscrupulous authorities because small fishers caught for minor offenses in violation of the Fisheries Code are fined with exorbitant fees ranging from P1,500 to a high of P60, 000 per offense, while big-fishing vessels which commit ‘high crimes in fisheries’ are able to escape by bribing officials and law enforcers.

The RA 10654, which aimed to curb the so-called ‘illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF)’, was passed in 2015 to comply with the fishing standards of the European Union (EU).

“While the amended fisheries law takes drastic measures to small fishers over minor offenses, it is still inutile to the commercial fishing fleets that are not only exhausting the resources in the municipal waters, but are also involved in large-scale and destructive fishing methods,” Salvador France, PAMALAKAYA Secretary General said in a statement.

Lastly, PAMALAKAYA lambasted the maritime law enforcers that while they are strict in implementing fisheries law among the Filipino fishers, they are ‘mum and incompetent’ to the massive poaching and destruction of coral reefs of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

PAMALAKAYA has been calling for the repeal of the Fisheries Code, and is coordinating with some legislators to enact a ‘genuine fisheries reform law’ that would ‘serve the interest of small fisherfolk in the country’. The proposed alternative fishing law aims to protect the small fisherfolk and marine and aquatic environment against local and foreign plunder. ###

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