Fisherfolk condemn BFAR’s inaction against foreign poachers

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This article is available in Pilipino

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) denounced the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)’s inaction amid blatant cases of poaching by foreign fishing vessels in the country’s maritime territory. Pamalakaya pointed out how BFAR is very strict in enforcing the law against local fishermen but does nothing against foreign fishing vessels.

The group says Chapter VI, Section 91 of the Amended Fisheries Code or Republic Act 10654 states that it is illegal for any foreigner, corporation or anyone to fish or operate in Philippine waters. According to law, just entering the country’s maritime territory automaticaly means they are fishing.

“The law is cruel to Filipino fishermen who are hastily accused of illegal fishing. Meanwhile, blatant plunder by China and other countries in the West Philippine Sea goes unhindered by the government despite existing laws against it,” said Fernando Hicap, national chairman of Pamalakaya.

BFAR itself has confirmed the widespread use of cyanide by China and Vietnam in Bajo de Masinloc, which quickly resulted in the destruction of the reef and depletion of fish. It is questionable that, despite this, the BFAR does not seem to be doing anything to hold accountable foreigners involved in harmful ocean fishing.

“The unilateral implementation of this repressive law against Filipino fishermen, while neglecting foreign destructive fishing in our waters, must be condemned,” Hicap stressed.

The law also provides fining foreign poachers $600,000 to $1,000,000 and an additional penalty of six months to two years in prison.

“With the extent of the reefs damaged by China and other countries in the West Philippine Sea, a large amount of damage fees could be collected from them, which can be used to aid Filipino fishermen whose livelihoods fell due to the destruction of ocean resources,” Hicap concluded.

Aside from illegal fishing in the West Philippine Sea, the destruction and impact on the economy caused by American and Filipino military operations and exercises at sea under unequal military treaties cannot be denied. Only on February 9, it launched the third Philippine-US Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) conducting several wargames in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

AB: Fisherfolk condemn BFAR's inaction against foreign poachers