ENVIRONMENT groups have lauded the Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Group for apprehending commercial fishing vessels in the municipal waters of Languyan, Tawi-Tawi.

A member of the Maritime Group flags 22 - Environment groups laud PNP Maritime Group’s quick action
A member of the Maritime Group flags down a commercial fishing vessel illegally using super lights in the municipal fishing waters of Languyan, Tawi-Tawi. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

According to a joint statement issued by the environment groups Oceana, Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Philippine Earth Justice Center and Pangisda Natin Gawin Tama, the constant monitoring of the PNP Maritime Group had led to the capture of five light boats — LB Khalil 6, LB Khalil 4, LB Rain, LB Balyena 7 and LB Yaz. The vessels were apprehended for fishing using super lights, which is strictly prohibited by law.

“This would not be possible without the effort and strict monitoring of the police maritime team led by BGen. Omega Jireh D. Fidel, director of the Maritime Group, PNP and the first special operations unit of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group led by LtCol. Fernando Cunanan Jr.,” the statement said.

The environment groups said despite the threat of the coronavirus, the PNP Maritime Group tried to implement local laws including the Fisheries Code as amended by Republic Act (RA) 10654.

Section 98 of the Amended Fisheries Code bans the use of super lights or fishing light attractor within municipal waters and bays, especially in municipal waters.

Local ordinances allowing fishing within the 10.1-to-15-kilometer portion of the municipal waters should comply with the requisites under RA 10654, the statement said.

“The amended Fisheries Law requires harvest control mechanisms to limit fishing efforts based on the health of fishing grounds. The local government units, in collaboration with national agencies, have the duty to determine proper harvest control rules and reference points as well as establish a catch documentation system in place for the management of their municipal waters,” noted Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana vice president.

Under RA 10654, a vessel monitoring system is also required for commercial fishing vessels to prevent their illegal intrusion into municipal waters. The Department of Agriculture issued the vessel monitoring rules under Fisheries Administrative Order 266, published on Oct. 15, 2020.

These measures for coastal local authorities to be effective managers in regulating and monitoring fishing grounds are in accordance with the Implementing Guidelines of the Department of the Interior and Local Government Memorandum Circular 2018-59 on regulation and monitoring of fishery activities in municipal waters, and Memorandum Circular 2018-147 on implementation of the Fisheries Compliance Audit.

“By protecting the municipal waters from illegal fishing encroachment, we are protecting the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the marginal fisher folks to the preferential use of their traditional fishing grounds. There is no level playing field when the banned commercial fishing is tolerated, or worse, allowed, as the municipal fisher folks’ sustainable fishing method, such as hook-and-line, is no match to the sophisticated and highly efficient fishing gears employed by commercial fishing vessels, such as the super lights,” the statement said.

THE MANILA TIMES

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