THE Southern Philippine Deep Sea Fishing Association, Inc. (SoPhil) will resist should the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) insist on implementing Fishery Administrative Order (FAO) 266 that requires the installation of a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) in all fishing boats in the country.

Lawyer Quirino Esguerra Jr., SoPhil legal counsel, said that the FAO is void for being unconstitutional based on the decision handed down on June 1, 2021, by the Malabon Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 170.

The Malabon RTC handed down the decision after a Manila-based fishing group filed a petition against the imposition of the FAO 266.

The FAO 266 requires fishing boat operators to install VMS gadgets in all of their vessels to allow environmental and fisheries regulatory organizations to track and monitor the activities of fishing vessels.

Esguerra said that the decision of the Malabon RTC has become final and executory as BFAR failed to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) despite seeking certiorari before the Supreme Court.

“Only a TRO can stop the court from implementing its order,” Esguerra added.

SoPhil noted that BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona maintained to impose FAO 266 since Agriculture Secretary William Dar did not put in writing his pronouncement although the latter committed to holding in abeyance the imposition of the order in a zoom meeting with the fishing groups in the country.

Esguerra said that they have filed a petition on January 19 before the Malabon RTC, seeking to cite Gongona for contempt.

Engineer Jaydrick Yap, SoPhil president, said that technically, the VMS gadget is used in international waters, especially for tuna catchers.

“This (gadget) should be used by tuna catchers. Why require its use to us on the domestic fishing?” Yap asked.

Yap said that the members of the association will send out their fishing vessels to fish once the three-month closed season for “tamban (sardine)” fishing ends on March 1.

“We will follow with the decision of Malabon RTC. Yes, we will go out fishing,” Yap said.

Isidro Velayo, Jr., BFAR regional director, said that the Office of the Solicitor General has filed petition before the Malabon RTC 170 seeking for review and reconsideration of its decision.

“Let us wait for the outcome of the petition on the issue,” Velayo said.

Velayo said that he has also forwarded to BFAR central office the letter of SoPhil for appropriate action.

He said that SoPhil wrote his office stating its position on the implementation of FAO 266.

SoPhil has 22 fishing firms as members with thousands of employees.

They supply sardine to the 13 canning factories based in Zamboanga City. (SunStar Zamboanga)