Bill mandating settlement areas for fisherfolk hurdles House on 3rd reading

The proposed House bill which would amend Section 108 of Republic Act (RA) No. 8550 or the “Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998” has been passed on third reading at the House of Representatives.

The House plenary (Photo by Ellson Quismorio/ MANILA BULLETIN)

During the House’s plenary session on Monday, Feb. 6, 242 lawmakers voted in favor of House Bill (HB) No. 6716 and three voted against the measure.

If enacted, the said bill would establish settlement areas with adequate access to fishing grounds to enhance the well-being of fisherfolks and fishing communities in the country.

Under the bill, government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and local governments of cities or municipalities exercising jurisdiction over coastal areas and municipal waters shall identify, establish, and create settlement areas which have adequate access to fishing grounds.

It further provides that fisherfolk shall be granted preference in the award of settlement rights in previously identified or established settlement areas.

Among the authors of the bill were congressmen Toby Tiangco of Navotas City, Danny Domingo of Bulacan’s first district, and House Majority Leader Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe.

Such measure also mandates that the establishment of settlement areas shall be in favor of fisherfolk who are registered as such with their respective city or municipality and who are without real property.

Local government units exercising jurisdiction over coastal areas and municipal waters are mandated to integrate settlement areas for fisherfolk in their respective comprehensive land use plans, according to HB 6716.

Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said she opposed the passage of the bill, citing any amendments to the Fisheries Code “will further violate the fishing rights of our fisherfolks.”

“If we want to help our fisherfolks, who largely contribute to our food security, all coastal communities should be declared fishing settlements. We must also provide production subsidies and support to them,” she said.

In explaining her “No” vote, the lawmaker lamented how Republic Act 8550, or the Fisheries Code of 1998, favor big operators of commercial fishing vessels and aquaculture farms, and not the rights of fisherfolk.

She criticized that in reality, the fisherfolk would experience resettlement under Section 108, Fisherfolk Settlement Areas of the law, and that it fails to protect the fishing communities.

“Maaari rin itong gamitin para matanggal ang mga (This can be used to remove the) fisherfolk sa (from the) coastal area para sa pagdevelop at pagbibigay daan sa pribatisasyon at (to develop and give way to privatization and) conversion. Sa huli, mga mangingisda ang mahihirapan dahil itatapon at iipunin sila sa (In the end, the fishermen would suffer because they will be relocated in a) settlement area na maaaring malayo sa kanilang pangisdaan (that could be far from their fishing grounds),” Brosas furthered.

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