Zamboanga City fishing firms to defy BFAR order to install tracking devices

Roel Pareño - Philstar.com
Zamboanga City fishing firms to defy BFAR order to install tracking devices
This handout photo shows the Philippine National Police Maritime Group apprehending a vessel for illegal fishing in municipal waters in Tawi-Tawi.
Oceana, handout

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Fishing companies in Zamboanga City said they will defy an order of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to equip fishing boats with Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) gadgets and will go out to sea without the tracking devices when the fishing season opens in March.

The Malabon Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 170 declared BFAR's Fishery Administrative Order (FAO) No. 266 requiring all fishing vessels to have VMS as null and void and unconstitutional in June 2021.

According to FAO 266, the BFAR wants fishing vessels to install the tracking devices to help it monitor fishing activity, prevent illegal fishing and locate vessels in case of accidents and disasters. 

Jaydrick Johnson Yap, president of Southern Philippines Deep Sea Fishing Association (Sophil), said its 22 member fishing companies will send out their fleets with copies of the court ruling and the injunction against implementation of the VMS requirement.

Of Sophil's memebr companies, 10 catch sardines while 12 concentrate on archipelagic fishing. Their fleets catch between 650 to 800 metric tons of fish per day.

"We will go out because for the food supply to maintain the price, we need to help our fellow Filipinos because if we will not deploy our fishing boats our own fishermen will lose job since December, January, February we have no work because of the close fishing season," Yap said.

RELATED: Philippines urged to implement VMS for fisheries protection

Fishing firms threaten strike

He said that if the BFAR will insist on requiring VMS tracking devices, they will go on strike and not go out to sea.

"If BFAR will still insist from executing the VMS and order the law enforcement to apprehend us them probably we will have the status quo, we will not go out," Yap said citing it will be useless for fishing operators to continue fishing because of the penalties and court cases they may face.

He said work stoppage by fishing companies will also affect canning factories, traders from outside Zamboanga City, ice plant factories and trucking services.

He said around 34,000 workers in the fishing and canning industries of Zamboanga City would be affected. 

Quirino Esguerra, legal representative of Sophil said they have also filed a petition to cite BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona for contempt before the Malabon court.
"As of now, it is clear that the government, the solicitor general accepted that this ruling of the Malabon RTC Branch 170 that FAO 266 is unconstitutional and cannot be implemented. Only a temporary restraining order can stop the court from implementing this very order," Esguerra said. 




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