By Paolo Romero
MANILA, Philippines - A bill seeking to strengthen the law enforcement and anti-poaching powers of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has been approved on second reading at the House of Representatives.
House Bill 4536 aims to increase the fines and periods of imprisonment for violations of Republic Act 8550, the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, to protect the country’s marine resources and comply with all international commitments on fishing.
It seeks to comply with the country’s commitment under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to exercise state control over distant water fishing fleet, strengthen coastal state responsibility to manage highly migratory stocks and support state responsibility to refuse port entry of boats engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Cebu Rep. Benhur Salimbangon, House committee on aquaculture and fisheries chairman and one of the bill’s authors, said the bill seeks to amend the whole Chapter VI (Prohibitions and Penalties) to increase fines and periods of imprisonment and adopt a wide array of accompanying administrative penalties to ensure that sanctions are dissuasive and have a strong deterrent effect.
“RA 8550 is replete with penalties that are not commensurate to damage caused, the economic value lost and habitat destroyed. In exchange for large sums of money, violators only find these penalties inconvenient. This defeats the deterrent function of the penalty,” he said.
Negros Oriental Rep. Pryde Henry Teves, another author, said the bill seeks to provide an automatic escalation clause for the fines to compensate for inflation and to maintain the deterrent function.