Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

Read Part 1 here.

In the previous article, it was mentioned that the Republic Act 10654 was created in order to amend Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. New provisions were added to further ensure the development and exclusivity of the municipal waters for local fisherfolk. There are also new prohibitions and penalties included to those who should violate these amendments.

These were added to strengthen the Fisheries Code and to preserve the municipal waters where the fisherfolk were given exclusive access to. 

But what are municipal waters and how can we identify them?

The Scope of the Waters

According to RA 8550. municipal waters, include, but are not limited to streams, lakes, and inland bodies of water within the municipality. 

The jurisdiction of the municipal waters include, but are not limited to streams, lakes, and inland bodies of water within the municipality. 

Other than that, marine waters between two lines drawn perpendicular to the general coastline from points where the boundaries of the municipality touch the sea at low tide. Lastly, municipal waters also include those parallel with the general coastline including offshore islands 1 kilometers from such coastline.

Municipal waters, on the hand, do not include marine waters, seascapes, fishing reserves, streams, lakes, inland bodies of water and tidal waters within the city area.

These areas are included within the protected areas defined under the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (Republic Act No. 7586) which protects and develops these sites because of their ecological value.

Every city is a participates in protected area management through representatives in the Protected Area Management Board–one from the city government and one from the barangay.

The city also acts as enforcers of fisheries and environmental laws within their territory to promote general welfare.

Jurisdiction on the Area

Being called “municipal waters,” the city where its boundaries meet the qualifications mentioned above have responsibility over the area. They have the authority to do the following:

  1. Manage, conserve, develop, and protect fishery or aquatic resources within the municipal waters,
  2. Enact a Municipal Fisheries Ordinance, and,
  3. Enforce all fishery laws, rules, regulations, and ordinances.

However, the management and enactment of ordinances are to be consulted with the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (FARMC).

FARMCs are found in every municipality and barangay. The council consists of representatives from the government, LGUs, and ¾ of the fisherfolk to ensure the proper actions needed for a Fisheries Ordinance.

A basic Municipal Fisheries Ordinance (MFO) must outline the boundaries of the municipal waters, provide rules and regulations on licensing and permits for fishing activities, including the number of licenses and permits that may be issued.

These are all in accordance with Harvest Control Rules and references points that may be applied for the municipal waters.

The Exclusive Right

Registered fisherfolks and their organizations can use the municipal waters for all fishery activities as mentioned in RA 8550. Since then, these fisherfolks can enjoy the following benefits:

  1. Enjoy priority use of the official and separated areas of the municipality
  2. Receive support from the Department of Agriculture and the local government units (LGUs) in the means technology and research, credit, production and marketing assistance and other services
  3. Entitlement of privileges under the Philippine Labor Code, Social Security System and other benefits under the laws. These include fish workers on board any operating fishing vessels.

Only those registered fisherfolks in the municipality can relish in these advantages. The Registry of Municipal Fisherfolk is used to identify priority access among fisherfolks so they can engage in fishing activities. The FARMC must also submit to the LGU the list of priorities for its consideration.

Commercial Fishing Permission

Aside from the traditional fishing of the registered fisherfolk in the city, commercial fishing is also allowed in municipal waters every now and then. The LGUs may permit so through an ordinance which adheres to the following conditions:

  1. Only small to medium commercial fishing vessels are allowed to operate within the municipal waters,
  2. The vessels can only operate within the 10.1 to 15 kilometers are from the shoreline,
  3. Methods and gears used must not be illegal,
  4. There has been a prior consultation conducted through a public hearing with the city’s FARMC,
  5. Applicant vessels, including the ship-owner, employer, captain, and crew should be certified by the proper agency as not having violated the RA 8550 as well as environment laws and those related to it.
  6. Lastly, there shall be no commercial fishing in depths less than seven fathoms.

Aside from following these conditions, the LGUs are required to establish Harvest Control Rules within the municipal waters. In addition, commercial fishing is subject to the overall carrying capacity of the area.

When a commercial fishing vessel exceeds the capacity, operations may be limited or issuance of new licenses may be stopped.

But since it’s been years before RA 10654 was ratified, many people skirted around the law. As a result, the amendment has new requirements for commercial fishing along with numerous prohibitions to ensure the preservation of the municipal waters or bodies of water found within a municipality.

The continuation of this article will discuss the new requirements for commercial fishing according to the amendment along with the prohibitions and penalties if these conditions should be violated. 

Read Part 3 here