MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III welcomed the European Union’s decision to lift its yellow-card warning on the Philippines, moving the country out of the list of countries that the EU threatened with a trade ban due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

“This warning was issued in June of 2014, because the EU deemed that the Philippines had previously not done enough to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Had the situation worsened, this would have alienated one of the biggest importers of fish for the Philippines, which would have been a blow against our fishing industry and Filipino fishermen,” Aquino said in a statement posted on the government website.

Aquino said that when the warning was issued last year, he immediately tasked concerned agencies to work tirelessly to comply with the EU’s requirements.

“Rest assured We will continue to implement reforms to avoid a similar situation in the future, and strengthen our fishing industry even further. We are determined to do so, knowing just how many of our countrymen depend on this for their livelihood,” Aquino said.

The European Union noted that the warning was lifted after the Philippines adopted legal measures to combat illegal fishing. South Korea, another EU fish exporter, is also off the list.

“The decision to stop the procedure vis-à-vis of Korea and Philippines is explained by the constructive cooperation shown by the two countries, which have made significant structural reforms in their fisheries management systems with the help of the Commission. For instance they have developed new legislation and improved their monitoring, control and inspection set-ups and revamped their traceability systems,” the EU said in a statement.

In June 2014, EU threatened to ban fish imports from the Philippines in what is known as a yellow-card warning. This could lead to trade sanctions, or a red card, if the government fails to take any action against IUU fishing.

In December, Congress passed the amendments to RA 8550, the Philippine Fisheries Code through RA 10654, which imposed higher penalties against violations of the fisheries law and instituted a vessel monitoring system, among several reforms. The amendments lapsed into law in February this year.

The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to RA 10654 is currently drafted by BFAR. –