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Gov’t urged to strictly monitor vessels in PH waters

/ 05:30 AM July 31, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The government should strictly enforce the vessel monitoring system to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our waters, an international ocean conservation group said on Tuesday.

Along with strict monitoring on the presence and activities of commercial fishing vessels, including foreign ships, Oceana said both national and local government agencies should also work in ensuring stronger enforcement of laws to curb poaching and other illegal activities in Philippine waters.

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“The installation of the vessel monitoring system will help tremendously in ensuring there is accountability [and] responsible fishing happening amidst all the challenges we are facing now,” Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Philippines vice president, told a press briefing.

System opposed, delayed

The amended Fisheries Code requires the monitoring system for all commercial fishing vessels, which would allow the government to see the identification, location and speed of every fishing boat weighing over 3.1 gross tons.

Its implementation, however, has long been plagued with opposition and delays, with commercial fishers claiming that installation, operation and maintenance of the monitoring system would be expensive.

Without the monitoring system, it is tricky to ascertain the identities and activities of the vessels in our waters, including in the West Philippine Sea, where there are territorial disputes between the Philippines, China and other nations.

Data gathered through infrared imaging and analyzed by Oceana Philippines’ Karagatan Patrol had already revealed that more and more foreign commercial fishing vessels have entered the country’s fishing grounds, including its municipal waters that are reserved for local fisherfolk that use traditional and passive fishing methods.

From 2012 to 2019, an average of over 11,000 commercial vessels had been detected every April in two fisheries management areas in the West Philippine Sea; some inching closer and closer to the country’s coastal areas.

While the monitoring may help address issues surrounding illegal and unregulated fishing, the government must also step up in ensuring that its law enforcement authorities are up to the task to ensure the protection of marine habitats.

‘Provides eyes to enforcers’

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“The monitoring system is necessary, but it is not sufficient,” said Mike Hirshfield, Oceana’s chief scientist and senior advisor. “But it is just an essential step … It provides eyes to the [enforcers].”

Ramos said strong leadership and political will among both national and local officials and agencies were necessary to address the gaps in enforcement.

“We really need strong interagency collaboration,” she said.

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TAGS: Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Maritime Dispute, Oceana Philippines, PH-China Relations, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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