The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has declared that the compliance of its controversial regulation which requires the installation of vessel monitoring system (VMS) and electronic reporting system (EPS) for commercial Philippine-flagged fishing vessels, will be voluntary, not mandatory.
During the virtual consultative meeting with the industry’s stakeholders on Tuesday, Atty. Michael Andayog, Officer-In-Charge of BFAR’s Fisheries Regulatory and Licensing Division (FRLD), announced that the installation of the VMS 100 transceiver as mandated by the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 266 is no longer mandatory.
“We are aiming for voluntary compliance by the commercial vessel (because) we are tentatively, we have a possible schedule for installation of VMS,” Andayog told the owners and operators of commercial Philippine-flagged fishing vessels who attended the consultation and orientation meeting called by BFAR.
“So more or less voluntary. We are not saying mandatory or imposing this requirement as of now,” he said, even as he noted that there are companies that “have signified intention or interest to the compliance.”
Andayog made the statement apparently to avoid legal complications after a group of commercial fishing companies earlier urged the Malabon City Regional Trial Court to cite BFAR and the National Telecommunications Commission for indirect contempt for allegedly defying a court order enjoining them from implementing FAO No. 266.
The government had explained that FAO 266 was enacted to strengthen the monitoring, control, and surveillance system of the country’s fishery resources for sustainable management and conservation of these resources.
FAO 266 is a regulatory measure that implements the Vessel Monitoring System and Electronic Reporting System, which was enacted to comply with the implementation of various conservation and management measures under the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and other International Fisheries Commissions, of which the Philippines is a signatory.
Nonetheless, Andayog encouraged the stakeholders to voice their concerns on the issue, saying “we are also exploring other possible ways to improve the system in relation to the detection and monitoring through the vessel monitoring system.”
The NTC, for its part, clarified that their presence during the meeting was merely intended to explain about the process on how NTC issues Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number to fishing vessels and the licensing process is premature.