THE House committee on aquaculture and fisheries resources yesterday received overwhelming support for the creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Dfar) during a public hearing on the bill at the Capitol Social Hall yesterday.
The move would make the existing bureau a separate entity from the Department of Agriculture.
But some fisherfolk, especially members of Pamana-Sugbo, opposed amendments to Republic Act (RA) 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998, saying it will reduce the scope of municipal waters.
Committee chairperson Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu, fourth district), author of the bill, explained that creating Dfar will give more power to the agencies tasked to improve seafood production and at the same time protect the environment.
On the amendment of RA 8550, Rep. Pablo “Pabling” Garcia (Cebu, second district) said commercial fishing, no matter how small or big, must be allowed in seawaters seven fathoms deep.
He said marginal fishermen cannot meet market demand.
Victor Lapaz of Pamana-Sugbo, a group of fishermen, said they oppose the proposed reduction of the 15-kilometer radius of municipal waters because big-time commercial fishers, with their sophisticated fishing equipment, would displace marginal fishermen.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar) Executive Director Luis Perez, for his part, said Filipino fishermen must depend on science, especially on understanding the cycle of fish production.
“If we allow massive fishing within the 15-kilometer radius, the number of fishes will be depleted. Fish catch and fish production have declined in the past 20 years. And there are factors that include the science of fisheries”, Perez said.
Garcia said their proposed amendments to RA 8550 are not selective because commercial fishing, whether big or small, is allowed only in seas seven fathoms deep.
No more fish
“If we will not amend the law especially on Section 90 of RA 8550, which bans commercial fishing within the 15-kilometer radius, time will come when the wet markets will run out of fish because marginal fishermen cannot produce more. Let us look what is the greater good for the greater number (of people),” Garcia said.
He added that the primary aim to amend the law and to create Dfar is food security. The problem is that the catch of marginal fishermen is enough for them and their families with no excess available for sale in the markets.
He said Presidential Decree 704, the old fisheries law, allowed commercial fishing within seas seven fathoms deep.
“All we have to do is reconcile the laws in making the amendment of RA 8550,” Garcia said.
Garcia said by amending RA 8550, there will be no more definition of municipal waters.
Other congressmen who attended the hearing and gave inputs were Rep. Pablo John Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district), Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City South), Rep. Luigi Quisumbing (Cebu, 6th district), Rep. Pastor Alcover Jr. (Anad Partylist), and Rep. Eduardo Gullas, among others.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 15, 2011.