Citing the national government’s renewed efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing around the country, the European Union (EU) revoked its “yellow card” warning against the Philippines.
Originally issued last June 2014, the “yellow card” meant the Union seriously considered banning all Philippine aquatic products from being sold in all its 28 member-countries. South Korea was the other country removed from the watch list while Thailand
In a statement, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs, and Fisheries Kamenu Vella noted that both Korea and the Philippines “have taken responsible action, amended their legal systems and switched to a proactive approach against illegal fishing.”
“Since they were issued with warnings, both Korea and the Philippines embarked on a series of reforms to upgrade their fisheries governance. Their legal systems are now aligned to international law,” Vella added.
These reforms pertain to amendments passed by Congress to Republic Act (RA) 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code. The amendments, all specified in RA 10654, imposed higher penalties against violations of the fisheries law. It also instituted a vessel monitoring system, among several reforms.
The amendments lapsed into law this February 2015. The implementing rules and regulations to this are still currently drafted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
For their part, lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of the advocacy group Oceana Philippines, hailed the Philippines for its efforts in complying with the conditions set by the EU for it to lift the yellow card warning. “The yellow card was actually a positive development as it pushed government into action by amending the Fisheries Code to make it more relevant, more effective and be a better deterrent against IUU fishing,” she said in a statement.
“We hope that government does not become complacent because the yellow card status was lifted. We have to make sure that the IRR lives up to the substance of the amendments to the Fisheries Code. There is also a need for government to continue funding its efforts in terms of monitoring both commercial and municipal fisheries, and equally as important, to make sure that it will steadfastly enforce the fisheries law,” Ramos added.
The fight against illegal fishing is part of the EU’s forceful drive to ensure sustainable ocean governance and to project globally the principle of sustainability, enshrined in the Common Fisheries Policy.
*Edrian Echague is a marine engineering graduate of the Philippine Merchant Marine School – Las Pinas, where he served as president of the supreme student government from 2012 to 2013. He won as one of the ten outstanding graduating maritime students in the Philippines during the said school year.