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Legal Issues Confronting Philippine Airsoft
While airsoft in the Philippines traces its roots in 1985, it is an underground game. An existing Letter of Instruction, LOI 1964 which was signed in 1982, banned the importation, manufacturing, and use of replica firearms. Nowadays, it is operating on a semi-legal status as airsoft players cannot be arrested for possessing replica firearms. But as more and more players are coming into the local scene as the proliferation of ACMs have made access to airsoft gear affordable, military and police officers active in the airsoft community would like to see it legalised and regulated properly, rather than keep it underground.
We have gotten in touch with Sir Wyvern, who is spearheading the campaign to have airsoft in the Philippines legalised to explain to us further the legal issues confronting the Philippine airsoft community.
Sir Wyvern, can you explain to us what LOI 1264 means? Is this a law or just a Presidential directive issued by the former Philippine Dictator Ferdinand Marcos?
Wyvern: First of all, I think you are referring to Letter of Instruction 1264 issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos on July 31, 1982 below is a copy of the said LOI:
"July 31, 1982
LETTER OF INSTRUCTIONS NO. 1264
The Minister of National Defense
The Minister of Local Government
The Minister of Finance
The Minister of Trade and Industry
The Minister of Justice
SUBJECT: Ban on the Importation, Manufacture, Distribution, Sale and Display of Certain Types of Toy Firearms and Explosives
* WHEREAS, there is now a proliferation of imported toy firearms and explosives which except for its weight, are replicas in appearance, measurements, color and parts as its genuine counterpart firearms and explosives;
* WHEREAS, these toy firearms and explosives could mislead the public into believing that these firearms are in fact genuine and as such could be used, as in fact reports indicate that these had been used, for illegal and/or criminal purposes by unscrupulous individuals;
* WHEREAS, in the interest of public safety and general welfare there is an imperative need to ban the importation, manufacture, distribution, sale and display of these types of toys;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, do hereby order and direct the following:
1. Henceforth, the importation, manufacture, distribution, sale and display of toy firearms and explosives which, even if dissimilar to in some aspects, are replicas in appearance, measurements, color and parts as its genuine counterpart firearms and explosives, are prohibited.
2. The Ministers of Finance, Trade and Industry, Local Government and National Defense shall issue the necessary rules and regulations to implement these instructions.
3. The Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police is directed to confiscate all toy firearms and explosives such as described in paragraph 1 hereof, which are displayed or otherwise used for illegal or criminal purposes. Strict compliance herewith is enjoined.
Done in the City of Manila, this 31st day of July, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and eighty-two."
Clearly it directs the concerned agencies and government offices to confiscate replica firearms. So if you are caught, say goodbye to your precious airsoft gun.
It is said that for Philippine airsoft to have legal and aboveground status, LOI 1964 needs to be overturned by a new law that must be sponsored in Congress and signed by the sitting president. Is this correct? Do you have members of Congress willing to sponsor a bill to protect airsoft play?
Wyvern: Not exactly, there are other ways for airsoft to have aboveground and legal status. Since airsoft was previously considered as a firearm, One way is to have the Philippine National Police to step in and regulate. The power of the PNP to classify airguns are firearms or toys is vested by law under section 8, PD 1866, as amended, in relation to the Rules Implementing PD 1866, and Executive Order no. 712. Pursuant to such power, the PNP issued the Rules and Regulations Governing the manufacture, sale, and carrying of rifles/ pistols in 29 january 1992. The just released amendment dated 24 July 2006 is an exercise of such powers by the PNP. I heard rumors that there was an effort in congress made by a Congressman who happens to be an airsoft enthusiast. I am not aware of the status/ progression of this effort or if it even exists.
Since Philippine airsoft is said to be "underground" or "semi-legal", what are the issues or problems in terms of regulating and monitoring airsoft games in the country?
Wyvern: One issue would be the rules of play, there is no standard rules of play. Rules being enforced in different game sites are relevant to the view of the host teams running it. Some permit open FPS games, some dont. Others are strict about the eye protection players use in their sites, some are not. A standardized set rules and regulation would be nice. But considering that nothing is compelling Game organizers to adapt a single set of rules, Its really hard to enforce that. Others may see that as a good thing though. At least people have a variety of choices.
Is this true that any replica weapon that fires a projectile that can penetrate plywood within 10 feet is considered a dangerous weapon in the Philippines?
Wyvern: Who wouldn't consider that dangerous? Based on the current memo of the Philippine National Police, If your airsoft rifle penetrates a plywood at 10 feet, it would not qualify for registration. It would classify your airsoft gun as a firearm since one of the criteria of a firearms is it could penetrate a ply wood at 10 feet.
There is the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on airsoft in the Philippines. Can you explain to our readers what this means and the position of the Philippine airsoft community on this?
Wyvern: Its the Implementing Rules and Regulations governing airsoft in the Philippines. Previously without this, airsoft is considered as a true firearm (sounds irrational right?) since its projectile exceeds 5.5mm. For the PNP, anything that fires a projectile bigger than 5.5mm from a barrel can be considered as a firearm. Imagine being caught with an airsoft rifle, You will be charged with an offense of illegal possession of Firearms and suffer its consequences under the law if found guilty. With the new IRR, Airsoft is now considered as 'Special Type of Airgun". Thanks to this, airsofters are saved from being persecuted with illegal possession of firearms under the law.
The IRR means that airsoft play can be considered already legal? Or should there still be a law to legalize airsoft?
Wyvern: I'd like to stray away from the term "Legal" since there is considerable opposition for using the term to describe airsoft. I'd prefer the term "Permitted" The PNP with all its power reclassified airsoft as "Special Type of Airguns" They are duty bound to regulate (permit or ban) it. Good thing they are being rational in drafting the rules and regulations that would govern airsoft gaming by conducting dialogs with airsofters. If the final rules and regulation comes out, all we need to do is to follow the IRR which we made and thats all it takes from our end. After all we are co-makers of this IRR.
What are legal limits in owning a replica weapon in the Philippines, in terms of velocity/fps once the IRR is in effect?
Wyvern: Based on the new IRR, 550 fps using 0.20g bb projectiles would be the standard limit. This FPS limit may be too high if you ask airsofters abroad but we gotta start somewhere right? The trend or culture of FPS here in the Philippines is around 350fps to 550 fps. The rule is it must not penetrate a plywood using 0.20g projectiles at 10 feet, other wise it would not qualify for registration and permits.
Another thing is the fees and other terms required by the new IRR (orange cap, registration fee, etc...)
In the FilAirsoft Forums, we see that there are issues about crazily upgraded airsoft weapons and people complaining about their use in skirmishes. Will the IRR be able to solve these issues?
Wyvern: They IRR maybe able to solve it provided that it would be enforced strictly. 550fps using 0.20 bb projectile would be the limit. But let me ask you, do you consider 550fps crazily upgraded or not-so-crazily upgraded? What is your definition of a Crazily Upgraded AEG?
Only in the Philippines that you see some airsoft games being played with an Open FPS policy, meaning there's no limit on the velocity that can be generated by airsoft replicas. What do you think about this and its effect on the image of Philippine airsoft as bloody and dangerous? Is this also due to the nature of Philippine airsoft being "underground"?
Wyvern: Well thats the trend, thats the culture here. People may find it weird the way I find the Japanese Ritual of Harakiri (disembowelment) weird.
But looking back on my experience, the fps trend a few years back (before ACM debut) was 400-450fps. Considering that airsoft was more "underground" then. It doesn't rationally imply that the "underground" state of airsoft is responsible for the high FPS trend.
My theory is the debut of ACM created the high fps trend. Its like an "FPS arms race" ACM users are opting to surpass the FPS upgrade potential of High End Brands if not shoot at par with the FPS output of high end brands.
Another thing is the quality of players now, there are a lot of rude and ignorant players now who think that "the higher the FPS, the better" they take pride and satisfaction if their guns is powerful more so if the "hot gun" is less expensive than other high end brands.
The rapid growth in the number of airsoft shops and agressive marketing strategies by the different shops would have also made an impact in the current trend. Upgrade parts before was so expensive because of "all Systema upgrade parts". But the entry of CA, Guarder and other cheaper brands of upgrade parts made high FPS guns affordable. everybody wanted to try it.
These are just a few of the reasons that i think could have an impact on the current high FPS trend in the airsoft community.
Are airsoft associations and teams in the Philippines opting for self-regulation rather than wait for the law or IRR to take effect?
Wyvern: To a certain degree, I can say that self-regulation has been effective before, but the proliferation of newcomers and numerous gamesites, shops and the rapid expansion in the airsofter population requires a stronger regulating body that can enforce effectively.
There are some associations and teams opting for that but I cannot speak on their behalf. We all know that whenever there is change there is resistance. I guess those opting for self-regulation represents the resistance in the change we are experiencing right now.
Do you think that accepted standards or best practices in other airsoft communities around the world should be adopted in the Philippines?
Wyvern: Personally I have not traveled around the world and I have not personally seen the "standards" and 'best practices" around the world so I do not know if it should be adopted here. My view is based on my experiences in the airsoft community here and the ideas I have come to discuss with other airsofters. We may opt to emulate other practices but that would greatly depend on the view of the majority. Its no different from the parliamentary system being proposed in the lower house here.
Would you like to leave a message for support from other airsoft communities in other countries? It might be helpful if other communities will be able to send messages or sign petitions in support of your campaign.
Wyvern: My appeal goes to everybody to support the legalization effort, and for those who's view is different, I appeal to them to opt for better awareness and weigh the rational perspectives about airsoft being "underground" or being "permitted and regulated" by the PNP.