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Stiffer penalties sought against poaching in Philippine waters

Lawmaker says foreign poachers should serve jail terms and be fined

Gulf News

Manila: A lawmaker is pushing for stiffer penalties against foreign poachers in a bid to deter intruders taking advantage of the country’s vast coastal waters and its resources.

Representative Abigail Faye Ferriol of the party “Kalinga” said foreign poachers should be made to serve jail time as well as pay stiff fines to deter them from entering the country’s territorial waters.

“Poaching in Philippine waters by foreigners has long been a perennial problem in the country. Reports of foreign vessels caught by the naval authorities periodically form part of the news,” Ferriol said.

Ferriol vowed to re-introduce House Bill 5430, which amends the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 or Republic Act (RA) 8550 by imposing a fine of $100,000 (Dh367,000) and a jail term of 12 years to foreigners found guilty of poaching. She had earlier filed the same bill in the 15th Congress.

Based on her proposal, foreigners charged with poaching shall not be released unless all fines are fully paid.

Ferriol said there is a need for stricter penalties to drive home the point to foreigners, whether they are individuals, corporations or entities, that fishing in Philippine waters is not allowed.

The Philippines has a sizeable coastal area, making it difficult for authorities to monitor and prevent intrusion.

According to Ferriol, incursions by foreign vessels are often coupled with plunder of the country’s natural resources. The severity of this problem, she said, was exposed in several instances when a vast collection of corals and other marine species were seized by the authorities.

“Foreigners were also arrested for illegal possession of endangered marine species in the Southern Philippines,” Ferriol said.

On June 18, coast guard authorities in southern Philippines seized 711 pieces of endangered helmet shells from a vessel anchored at the Port of Zamboanga.

An estimated P900,000 (Dh75,700) of the shells were seized from the shipment which were smuggled abroad a passenger vessel.

Called “budyong,” the helmet shells are being used as home decorations and jewellery. They are also used in the production of watches.