Manila, Philippines- The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) smells something fishy on the nationwide registration program for small fisherfolk proposed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and its attached agency– the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“We smell something big and something fishy. This could be an aquatic version of pork barrel in the fisheries sector to be aptly called “fish barrel” because it will entail enormous amount of taxpayers money for another ghost and highly questionable program.
To Secretary Proceso Alcala and the rest of the Quezon mafia, you don’t need to identify the poor fisherfolk by their names just to help, that is a cheap excuse,” said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France in a press statement.
According to DA and BFAR the National Municipal Fisherfolk Registration Program will officiall start next month, but already more than 100,000 fisherfolk had already registered. The one-year registration targets 1.6 million to two million fisherfolk in the country and this would help the national government and local government units and agencies to identy those who need help in the fisheries sector.
Secretary Alcala said registration program will enable the government to provide the needed assistance so they can benefit from the economic growth of the country. The agriculture secretary added that the government wanted to help fishermen cope with the increase in gasoline prices, but “we could not do it because we did not have a list of who to help.
“How much the government will spend for this national registration program? P 10 billion? P 20 billion? If this is the case then expect this money to be corrupted in the tradition of pork barrel scam, Malampaya fund scam or other scams which can be called by another name for emphasis– fish barrel scam,” the Pamalakaya leader noted. France noted that small fisherfolk, aside from small farmers are the favorite victims of pork barrel scammers since the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and in the present administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Pamalakaya said the 2014 budget for BFAR alone amounts to P 4 billion. The group said about 75 percent of the total budget might be used for the national registration program and for the procurement of new vessels that would be used by the Philippine Navy to guard the West Philippine Sea from intrusion of China and other nations in conflict with Manila and Beijing over the Spratlys.
“The entire budget of BFAR is lump sump. There is no explanation how the agency will spend this money. But they have mentioned in their proposed budget this highly dubious national registration program for small-scale fisheries in lump-sum and unprogrammed manners. So this is fish barrel in the tradition of pork barrel,” the group added.
The government, however, is still studying what assistance would be given to those involved in the fishery industry, but it could be similar to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or the conditional cash transfer program of Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The fisheries database has been enriched by the Registry System for Basic Sector in Agriculture started by the Department of Budget and Management.
The registry will be used by the BFAR to come up with a national database necessary in designing appropriate programs to help local governments in managing, regulating, conserving and protecting fishery resources and establishing a comprehensive fishery information system.
It will help design programs that will help towns in managing, regulating, conserving and protecting fishery resources and establishing a comprehensive fishery information system. ###