Fisherfolk buck commercial fishing in municipal waters

Small fisherfolk groups have expressed strong opposition to House Bill (HB) 7853, which seeks to allow commercial fishing vessels to enter between 10.1 to 15 kilometers inside the 15-kilometer municipal waters.


Among the groups against the bill is the Lakas ng Maliliit na Mangingisda sa Bicol (Lambat Bicol), whose chairman, Elwin Mangampo, said that the bill will further favor commercial fishers.


“Such a proposal hurts us, for it favors commercial vessels, which burden small fisherfolk like us,” Mangampo said.


Mangampo is referring to illegal encroachers within the municipal waters, which is designated by the existing fisheries law for municipal fisherfolk (small-scale fishers) engaged in subsistence fishing.


Likewise, fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), in a news release, slammed the house bill as a “very very dangerous to the municipal fishery resources and disadvantageous to the municipal fishers.”


Commercial fishing vessels are those weighing 3.1 gross tons (GT) and above. Under the amended Fisheries Code of 1998, commercial fishing vessels are only allowed outside the designated 15-kilometer municipal waters, according to the group’s statement.


Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA national chairperson, said that “Commercial fishing vessels with advanced fishing technology and gear would outcompete small municipal fishers who engage in backward and Jurassic methods of fishing.”


Fisheries scientist Willy Campos said during a webinar organized by Oceana Philippines that “If we allow commercial fisherfolk to enter municipal waters, which have a higher fish abundance, the catch of artisanal fisherfolk would decline,” adding that “it will have an impact on our already overfished stocks like fish sardines.”


Pablo Rosales, a fisherfolk representative, said during the same webinar, that instead of this bill, our lawmakers should focus on implementing existing fisheries laws especially those that aim to protect the municipal waters.


Among these regulations is the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 266, which sets the rules for implementing the vessel monitoring measures for all commercial fishing vessels that are more than three gross tons.


According to Oceana’s Danny Ocampo, this measure helps not only in monitoring fishing activities in our waters but also in prosecution and collection of catch information that can help manage fish stocks.