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Monday, September 16, 2019

Philippines, Indonesia start talks on fishing pact

THE Philippines and Indonesia have initiated talks that could signal the revival of a bilateral fishing agreement that lapsed in 2006, the Department of Agriculture said Sunday.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala met with Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia's Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), while he was in Jakarta recently to take part in the World Economic Forum and its adjunct event called Grow Asia Agricultural Forum.

Alcala said the Indonesian official agreed to his suggestion to have both parties convene a technical working group that will meet “at the soonest possible time” to flesh out the issues, including the concerns of Filipino-owned fishing companies in Indonesia regarding MMAF’s strict enforcement of its policies and regulations.

Earlier this year, Pudjiastuti announced she would not issue new licenses to foreign fishing companies in a bid to protect Indonesia’s territorial waters and fishing grounds from illegal fishing.

The fisheries ministry likewise wants to impose a 100-percent Indonesian manning on foreign-owned fishing vessels with licenses to fish in their waters.

These new policies from Indonesia’s six-month old administration have affected a number of Filipino-owned companies operating in the country, the DA said.

Some reports indicated that a number of Filipino-owned but Indonesian-flagged fishing vessels have temporarily suspended operations in Indonesia while waiting for clarification on the new government policies.

Alcala said that while the Indonesian minister made it clear that these policies are not likely to change anytime soon, she assured him Filipino personnel of confiscated and apprehended boats would be “well-taken care of.”

“It was a very constructive, sincere exchange of ideas about what should be done about a matter that concerns both our countries,” said Alcala, who was accompanied during the meeting by Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Maria Lumen Isleta and other DA officials.

He said Indonesia was particularly concerned about the economic and environmental impact of poaching.

On his part, Alcala informed Pudjiastuti that the Philippine government continues to carry out measures that will help deter and eliminate illegal fishing practices, including the recent enactment of Republic Act 10654 that revised the old national fisheries code.

Pudjiastuti lauded these efforts.

Under RA 10654, sanctions have been raised to as high as P45 million for commercial fishing violators, and $2.4 million for poachers.

The revised law also requires the installation of a Monitoring, Control and Surveillance system in “all Philippine flagged fishing vessels regardless of fishing area and final destination of catch,” which would make it easier to ensure compliance with fisheries regulations.

Through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the DA also continues to train new law enforcers to beef up its anti-IUUF campaign.

To date, 200 law enforcers have been trained out of the targeted 700 for this year.

On the issue of manpower, the Indonesian minister clarified that they allow two non-Indonesian masters in an Indonesian-flagged boat, provided that the contract for foreign crew will be for a maximum of three years, after which fishing companies are “mandated to transfer technology” to their Indonesian employees.

She said that the new regulation is designed to give Indonesians more income and livelihood opportunities. (SDR/Sunnex)

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