September 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

4 Visayas governors want additional provisions in law to fight illegal fishing

ILOILO CITY -- The governors of four provinces surrounding the Visayan Sea will lobby for further adjustments to Republic Act 10654, passed in February 2015 and containing the amended Fisheries Code of the Philippines, to include more provisions that will prevent illegal fishing practices.


Among the proposed changes being considered are penalties against mere possession of illegal fishing gears and a longer holding period for apprehended fishing boats.

The governors of Cebu, Iloilo, Masbate, and Negros Occidental, along with local government officials of the affected coastal towns, are scheduled to meet on Saturday, July 22, to discuss these amendments and how they can further strengthen monitoring efforts.

“We need to tap the local government units in the strict implementation of the law and ordinance against illegal fishing,” Arthur D. Defensor, Sr. of Iloilo told the media.

Mr. Defensor said the Visayan Sea has been “overfished” in the last 50 years and illegal fishing practices have killed certain species such as the high-value blue crab.

Iloilo Provincial Administrator Raul N. Banias said the meeting on Saturday, to be held in the province’s Sicogon Island, will discuss the planned additional provisions and their strategy for putting these forward to Congress.

Mr. Banias said apprehended boats and their owners are released upon posting of bail. “Upon the release, they will be back in operation. It’s a vicious cycle. So the governors can strongly lobby these concerns to the legislators,” he said.

On the monitoring and implementation side for existing rules, Mr. Defensor said they are looking at strengthening the “market denial” strategy.

“Those who are caught selling fish (in the market) out of illegal activities will be penalized,” the governor said.

Mr. Defensor and Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo G. Marañon, Jr. had earlier called for the declaration of the Visayan Sea as a marine-protected area to prohibit big and commercial fishers.

“When you declare it a marine reserve, only marginal fisherfolk or small fishermen can fish in the area in order to make it sustainable. (The) Visayan Sea used to be the richest fishing ground in the world. There are still plenty of fish in the area but some are lost due to commercial fishing,” Mr. Defensor said last year.

The Visayan Sea is surrounded by the islands of Masbate, Cebu, Negros Occidental, and Iloilo. -- Louine Hope U. Conserva