Press Release
April 30, 2015

Villar welcomes lifting of yellow tag on Philippine fish products

Sen. Cynthia Villar welcomed the lifting of the yellow tag imposed by the European Union (EU), which means Filipino fishermen can continue supplying fish products to Europe, one of its biggest markets in the world.

"We recognize the seriousness of this warning from the EU, which if not addressed, will mean trade sanctions, including a ban on fish imports from the Philippines. That is why we worked promptly to amend the 16-year-old Fisheries Code and strengthened the law against illegal fishing," Villar said.

The yellow tag was imposed in June last year on the Philippines for its failure to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF). It puts to risk the fisheries sector which provides direct and indirect employment to over one million people. The EU has already declared import bans against Belize, Guinea, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka.

On April 21, 2015, the EU announced that the Philippines, along with Korea, have succeeded in instituting reforms in its policies to adequately address illegal fishing.

"With this development, our fisher folks can now stop worrying about losing their source of income in the event of an EU market close down. We are able to address two important things with the enactment of this law, one is to ensure the sustainability of our oceans and two is to ensure the livelihood of our fishermen," Villar said.

According to a report by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, in 2013 alone, the Philippines exported P9.4 billion (165 million euros) worth of fish products to EU countries.

Villar is the principal sponsor of the bill amending the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. As chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, she prioritized the passage of the law which is now known as Republic Act 10654 or the Fisheries Reform Law.

With the lifting of the yellow tag, Department of Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala immediately relayed to Villar his gratitude for the hard work she put in to pass the law.

RA 10654 aims to make the Philippine fishing legislation at par with other countries, especially the conservation of threatened aquatic species, straddling and highly migratory species, and other marine resources.

It was amended to ensure that management of fishery and aquatic resources is anchored on eco-system based approach in fishing. The new law ensures the traceability of all the catch of Philippine-flagged fishing vessels through a monitoring, control, and surveillance system.

The law sanctions IUUF and modified penalties for a more deterrent effect. It also ratifies the Fish Stocks Agreement as part of the coastal state measures.

"We are confident that with this law, we will be able to strike a balance between the requirements for increased production to contribute to food security and the need to conserve and protect our resources for long-term sustainability," Villar said.

The Nacionalista Party Senator also urged the active participation of all fisheries sector stakeholders, civil society, government, and the academe for the crafting of the law's implementing rules and regulations.

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