PH marine conservation groups call on Duterte to end illegal fishing

A week before President-elect Rodrigo Duterte assumes office, leaders of fisherfolk and marine conservation groups bared their recommendations toward improving the lot of fishing communities and the health of the country’s marine ecosystems by putting an end to crimes happening at sea and in coastal communities. In a presentation to media today, the groups also called for the creation of a separate Department of Oceans and Fisheries to be able to better plan, monitor and implement reforms and contribute towards food security.

“We are here to request for a dialogue and to remind incoming President Duterte of his campaign promise to address fishers’ and marine issues, and to end very high poverty incidence among people directly relying on seas for food and for a living. His administration will play a critical role in the country’s transition to sustainable fishing. We expect nothing less than strong, resolute implementation of the amended fisheries law against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF). Doing less is a disservice to millions of Filipinos who have been clamoring for change,” said Vince Cinches, oceans campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2014 [1], the poverty incidence among fisherfolk reached 39.2 in 2012, the highest among the basic sectors of society, followed by farmers at 38.3 per cent, and children at 35.2 per cent.

“Coherent and holistic programs should especially be quickly put in place that recognize our vulnerability to climate change. We need focused and sustained efforts in combatting crimes against the oceans and to allow a better playing field for our small fishers and fishing communities. We strongly urge the incoming administration to target an end to illegal fishing within their first six months of office,” said Dennis Calvan, executive director of the NGOs for Fisheries Reform.

During the election campaign period, fishers, marine conservationists and environmental groups pushed for the 10-Point Blue Agenda [2] to be taken up by the Presidential candidates. This includes: the delineation of municipal waters; the implementation of traceability mechanisms for fishery products; sustainable fishing; and capacity-building for fisherfolk to better adapt to climate change.

“To ensure the sustainability of our fishery resources and secure the livelihood of our Filipino fishers for long-term economic prosperity and food security, we strongly support the creation of a Department of Oceans and Fisheries for improved fisheries governance and strict enforcement of Republic Act 10654,”[3] said Joann Binondo, overall project manager of the WWF – Partnership Program for Sustainable Tuna.

“We call on the new administration to immediately address the crime of illegal fishing and start rehabilitating our overfished waters. We look forward to seeing political will in the new government’s campaign against crime to include its focus on prosecuting plunderers of our oceans, to protect the people’s right to healthy marine ecosystems and ensure food security for all Filipinos,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines.

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