HB 1267 – An Act Amending RA 8550 (On Prohibitions and Penalties, SLAPP Suit – Explanatory Note)

FOURTEENTH CONGRESS )
REPUBLIC OF THE
PHILIPPINES )
FIRST REGULAR SESSION )

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
House Bill No. 1267

 

Introduced by Representative Lorenzo R. Tañada III

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE

The weak penalties provided for in certain sections of Chapter VI, Article II of R.A. 8550, otherwise known as the Fisheries Code of 1998 do not effectively restrain commercial fishing operators from encroaching in municipal fishing grounds. Nor is it enough to hinder violators from continuing with their illegal activities.

The rampant encroachment of commercial fishers in the municipal waters has caused severe damage to our country’s already depleted fishing grounds. Study shows that a day of illegal commercial fishing operation can deprive the marginalized fisherfolk two months of fish catch. This is enough motivation for the government to act towards effectively putting a stop to these illegal activities and violations.

An increase in fines and period of imprisonment would serve as a harsh penalty for violators and emphasize the government’s dedication to protecting and sustaining the country’s fishery and aquatic resources. This increase in penalties for fishery violations attests to the underlying principle of giving preference to municipal fisherfolk over the utilization of municipal waters.

Adjustment with regard to the penalty imposed is also needed to cover confiscation and forfeiture of the gears and the vessels, aside from the catch. Previous violators have continued their illegal activities despite being caught before, because the harmful gears were consequently released and the cost of the fines were negligible considering the volume of their catch and the profit that they get from their illegal activities. This time, even the carrying vessels can be subject for confiscation.

The proposed higher penalties and stiffer fines would be based on the value of the damage wrought by the violation. Such is the case with corals. Corals play a significant role in the marine ecosystem and their exploitation and exportation have depleted this foremost marine habitat, thus resulting to degradation of the fishery resources over damaged areas.

Aside from the penalty of imprisonment and fines, other damages have also been included as one of the penalties that may be incurred by a violator for illegally converting mangroves into fishponds. This includes reparation and compensation for the destruction caused upon the mangrove ecosystem, which has been scientifically valued higher considering its role in the life cycle of most fishes.

With Local Government Units (LGUs) at the forefront of this problems in the coastal communities and whose mandates covers the 15 kilometers municipal waters, this bill seeks to give greater authority to LGUs in managing the municipal waters. LGUs can initiate administrative proceedings to protect its resources and apprehend violators aside from confiscating their vessels and equipments used in performing illegal acts. Aside from the Department of Agriculture, the LGUs have also been given authority to declare fishery reserves, refuge and sanctuaries.

LGU-deputized fishery enforcement officers have always been targets of harassment in the performance of their duties. In line with the recognition of these community-based men and women who volunteer to perform or implement the fishery laws, ordinances and other regulations, any obstruction to perform their duties is likewise penalized. This act shall also institutionalize incentive schemes wherein LGUs can allocates funds for FARMC, Bantay-Dagat members and other volunteer fishery law enforcement officers from fines collected.

This bill seeks to amend certain sections on Chapter VI and provide an additional chapter on legal, administrative and quasi-judicial actions to Article II of R.A. 8550 with the objective of strengthening the prohibitions to curb if not totally eliminate the illegal activities of the commercial fishers in municipal waters and to institutionalize the right of every citizen to file suit and receive remunerations for violations to their person and to the provisions of this act.

In view of the foregoing, the approval of the attached bill is earnestly requested.

 

LORENZO R. TAÑADA III
Representative,
4th District, Quezon Province

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