THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) under the Department of Agriculture (DA) has maintained that the installation of the vessel monitoring system (VMS) and electronic reporting system (ERS) for commercial Philippine-flagged fishing vessels is mandatory, and not voluntary.
Retired commodore Eduardo Gongona, BFAR national director, invoked Section 119 of the Fisheries Code or Republic Act 8550.
“There have been news reports citing statements made by a DA-BFAR official during a consultative meeting with stakeholders from the commercial fishing industry stating that the requirement is now mandatory. We clarify, however, that these statements do not represent the full context under which there were given. During the consultation, the said official merely encouraged the commercial fishing vessel operators to submit themselves voluntarily for the installation to avoid the imposition of temporary suspension of fishing vessel license, as preventive measures, to non-complying operators in violation of law,” he said.
“We maintain that, unless amended, the requirement for the installation of VMS and ERS remains in effect and compliance with its provisions is mandatory,” he added.
Fishing operators NFH Corp. and Adruth Fish Dealer earlier filed a 12-page petition for indirect contempt against
BFAR and National Telecommunications Commission with the Malabon City Regional Trial Court for allegedly disobeying a court order VMS and ERS system for commercial Philippine-flagged fishing vessels.
Previously, the lower court issued a permanent injunction stopping BFAR and related agencies from implementing Fisheries Administrative Order No. 266-2020, which amended FAO 260-2018.
The order required the installation of VMS-100 transceivers in all commercial fishing vessels operating in domestic waters, in the high seas, and other distant waters.
The court then issued a permanent injunction against the order for being unconstitutional.
The petitioners accused the two government f refusing to obey the injunction.
“The DA-BFA through the Office of the Solicitor General has already filed a petition for review before the Supreme Court questioning the decision of the regional trial court of Malabon City which declared FAO 266 as null and void for being unconstitutional,” Gongona said.