MANILA, Philippines - The European Commission (EC) has given the Philippines a six-month leeway to cooperate better against illegal fishing following a previous warning that Philippine fish exports might be banned in the European Union because of the country's "insufficient action" against the illicit practice.
According to the European Delegation in Manila, the Philippines is in the same boat with Papua New Guinea and Ghana.
In a statement sent to the Inquirer, the EC said these three countries had six more months to present their respective action plans against illegal fishing and to "make the necessary changes."
According to the EC, the Philippine government needs to address weak legislation, the lack of a system of sanctions to deter illegal fishing activities and deficient systems for the monitoring, controlling and surveillance of fisheries.
However, the EC said the Philippines had "made credible progress in fulfilling its international obligations."
It said the country had "amended its legal framework, improved control and monitoring systems and is taking a proactive role in complying with international rules.
Even then, the EC said the Philippines still needed more time to finalize the adoption and implementation of these measures.
Being the world's biggest fish importer, the EU intends to close its markets to illegally caught fish, which the bloc considers as undermining the livelihood of fishing communities and depleting fish stocks.
According to the EC, the value of fish illegally caught worldwide is estimated at 10 billion euros yearly. This accounts for 11 million to 26 millions tons of, which is at least 15 per cent of the total global catch.
"I am pleased that the Philippines and Papua New Guinea have taken their warnings seriously, and that Ghana continues to cooperate closely with the Commission," said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.
Vella said all three countries had shown political will and had made tangible progress in fighting illegal fishing.
"That is why I am offering each country an additional six months and I look forward to seeing their hard work bear fruit later this year," Vella added.
In January, the Department of Agriculture recognised the first batch of 62 graduates who finished the 90-day training on National Capability Building Program for Fisheries Law Enforcers initiated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The course module included training on BFAR operations and protocols, fishery laws and aquatic protection, shipboard operation and practicum, advance tactical training, water search and rescue, field training exercises and physical development programme.