By Macon Araneta i FilAm Star Correspondent

Sen. Cynthia Villar was recognized by the Department of Agriculture for her role in the enactment of the law against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF).

During the First Command Conference of the Philippine Committee against IUUF at the Philippine International Convention Center last December 16, Villar was recognized “for her pivotal role in the enactment of Republic Act 10654, which is the country’s legal backbone in the fight against IUUF.”

Villar as chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, principally sponsored the bill which also resulted in the lifting of the yellow tag on Philippine fish imports. If not immediately addressed, the yellow tag would cause a ban on the Philippines to export fish products to Europe, one of the country’s largest markets.

It also caused the inclusion of the country in the European Commission’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) and allowed duty-free entry of over 6,000 Philippine products to Europe.

“With the enactment of this law, we were able to address two important things: One is to ensure the sustainability of our oceans and two is to ensure the livelihood of our fishermen.

It also helped the Philippines diversify trade, increase exports and attract foreign direct investments,” Villar said.

The law which was signed into law February 27, 2015, amended the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. The law sanctions IUUF and modified penalties for a more deterrent effect.

The law also provides for the creation of the Fisheries Management Fund from the fines and penalties collected. The fund will provide livelihood and scholarship programs, among others, to fisher folks and their family.

Under the law, 35 percent of the fund will be allocated to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for fishery law enforcement and 65 percent will be allotted to provide assistance to poor fisher folk:

A. 10 percent for the purchase, upgrade and maintenance of vessels, communication and other equipment used for the monitoring, control and surveillance, of Philippine waters and distant water fishing;

B. 5 percent for the payment of litigation expenses, cost of conveyance of witnesses and other costs due to cases filed by or against the Republic of the Philippines in international courts arising from the implementation of this act or where apprehending party or parties become respondents or defendants in any tribunal or court of law;

C. 15 percent for the operating costs of the IFARMC and MFARMC and payment for the cost of rehabilitation, medical expenses for injury, or indemnity for death of law enforcement officers, including deputized volunteers;

D. 20 percent for payment for rewards to informers and those who assisted in fishery law enforcement;

E. 5 percent for the continued upgrading of laboratory facilities and equipment;

F. 5 percent for the capability development of BFAR personnel, deputized law enforcement agencies and volunteers, and stakeholders;

G. 10 percent for scholarship grants for children of fisher folk and fish workers in fish catch, aquaculture, fishing and fish processing;

H. 15 percent for livelihood programs for production enhancement and poverty alleviation; and

I. 15 percent for assistance to fishermen in the form of shared facilities.

With the enactment of the law, Villar said the country was able to fulfill its commitment to the international community to protect marine life and resources.

“We recognize the threat overfishing poses to all nations of the world. If left unabated, it will not only make deserts out of our oceans in 2050, it will also mean a collapse of the fishing sector as a source of livelihood,” Villar said.