Phl may lose tariff incentive with EU's 'yellow card'
Dennis Carcamo (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2014 - 3:32pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines might not get its request from the European Union to lower tariffs for exports of canned tuna if it fails to immediately address the illegal and unregulated fishing in the country, international environment organization Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace noted that the Philippines could lose its chance to get the incentive after the European Union issued a "yellow card" for the government's failure to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Since 2010, the group said that EU has identified so-called "non-cooperative countries" that do not fulfill their international obligations to fight IUU fishing. The concerned countries first receive a formal warning and issued a "yellow card."

In case they do not improve their fisheries management and vessel control policies, in line with international law, they can be blacklisted and issued a "red card" which entails numerous sanctions, including an import ban, Greenpeace said.

The group noted that the EU has already blacklisted Cambodia, prohibiting the ASEAN member-nation's seafood products to enter into EU market since March.

"Countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are moving towards an integrated market starting in 2015.  Having illegally caught fish that goes through the supply chain in the region would taint the whole of ASEAN," Mark Dia, Regional Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said.

"Strong political will, enforcement and allocation of resources, together with the cooperation of all sectors most specially the commercial fishing sector will be required to stamp out these dirty fishing practices and ensure the health and productivity of our seas and oceans," Dia added.

Dia also cited a recent study which showed that the following ASEAN member countries that were exporting illegally caught tuna to the US market: Thailand (around 25-40 percent), Vietnam (around 25-35 percent), Indonesia (around 20-35 percent) and the Philippines (around 20-32 percent).

Greenpeace said that globally, IUU fishing is estimated to cost governments between $10 billion and P23.5 billion a year.

Aside from the staggering economic costs, IUU impedes fisheries management since the real fish catch is not accurately reported, thereby contributing to overfishing.  Some fish stocks might already be depleted before any useful management measures can be in place.

In Indonesia, illegal fishing is estimated to generate losses of up to $5 billion a year, the group said.

"The seas are a shared resource. Rather than paper policies, stronger mechanisms must be in place to counter illegal fishing activities and to reduce the overall capacity of ASEAN’s fishing fleet, starting with the worst offenders. Governments should also set aside large areas of networked ocean sanctuaries that would allow the fish stocks to replenish," Dia said.

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