Fishers group urges government to distribute 100,000 fishing boats to Yolanda victims

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Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Tuesday said the Department of Agriculture (DA) should distribute not less than 100,000 fishing boats to fisherfolk victims of super typhoon Yolanda if it wants to be relevant in providing long term assistance and livelihood to affected fishermen.

DA Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday announced that the construction of fishing boats and the production of nets and other fishing gear will be prioritized by the department to soften the impact of Yolanda. The agriculture chief said the DA will spearhead the construction of 1,300 fishing boats that will be powered by 5-horsepower engines. He said the agriculture department will also provide 4,000 fishing nets to affected municipal fishermen. But Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said the assistance offered by DA is highly minimal and grossly trivial. Secretary Alcala said the department will also put up 200 payaos amounting to P 40 million.

“1,300 fishing boats? That is is only good for one fishing barangay in Tacloban City. We are talking here of the entire of Eastern Visayas region and 34 more provinces devastated by typhoon Yolanda and all this government can offer is 1,300 fishing boats and 4,000 fishing nets. Please don’t give us this kind of highly minimal and grossly trivial response. We are dealing with a national disaster that needs national situation,” the Pamalakaya leader lamented. According to France, at least 100,000 fishing boats are needed to help fishermen displaced by super typhoon Yolanda.

Pamalakaya said the 100,000 fishing boats should be distributed for free and would cover the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Northern Cebu, Northern Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Antique,  Guimaras, Northern Negros, Palawan, Masbate, Mindoro Oriental and Mindoro Occidental. The group maintained that more than half of the casualties in Yolanda ravaged provinces in the Visayas, Palawan and Mindoro provinces are small fishermen.

The militant group said an independent body should be set up to monitor the allocation and distribution of free fishing boats and gears to affected fishermen. The body shall be composed of fisherfolk organizations and other concerned groups that will be sanctioned or assisted by DA and the local government units.

Meanwhile, leaders of Pamalakaya are set to request the Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation on the possible criminal liabilities of the Philippine government with regards to dealing with typhoon Yolanda. The group said it ask DoJ Secretary Leila de Lima to investigate the criminal negligence and liability of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel Roxas III. “It is clear the grand incompetence of the President and his interior secretary paved way for the massive destruction of lives and livelihood in Samar, Leyte and 34 more provinces ravaged by typhoon Yolanda,” the group said.

The militant group said it will also officially ask the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a full-audit of all financial aid received by Aquino government from foreign donors to assist tens of thousands of victims of super typhoon Yolanda. Pamalakaya said it will not rely on the website set up by the national government as to the situation of foreign aid extended to the Aquino administration for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda. Pamalakaya argued that the foreign aid received by the Aquino administration amounting to more than P 10 billion cannot be entrusted to the Aquino government which it said champions the legacy of pork barrel and bureaucratic corruption.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Aquino government had received assistance amounting to P 10.4 billion from 43 international donors that came from the United States, Japan, European Union, Australia, China and Saudi Arabia to mention a few.

DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez argued that the amount “accounts only for those donations to which the donors assigned a monetary value, adding that that pledges of financial aid have to be processed in accordance with the rules and regulations of the donors before the funds reach the recipients.

“This is a fact and not a bluff– that this administration has no political and moral authority to receive and handle international support for the victims of the recent catastrophe in Eastern Visayas and 34 more provinces.The pork obsessed administration of President Aquino is dangerous. We cannot rely on this incumbent ruling gangland in Malacanang would ensure that these international aid for earthquake victims would go to relief and rehabilitation. Something must be done to stop this unbridled exploitation and wholesale raid of people’s resources.”

“The proposal of Pamalakaya regarding  the formation of an independent body will solicit the support primarily of faith-based organizations, trusted non-government organizations and institutions and representatives of victims and people’s organizations. “The idea is to insulate foreign aid from the corrupt regime of Aquino and make sure these would go directly for the relief and rehabilitation of people, livelihood and communities. The COA can be tapped to monitor these foreign aid and make periodic reporting on the status of foreign aid,” Pamalakaya added.

Pamalakaya reminded foreign donors that the Philippine government has yet to account the foreign assistance it received for victims of typhoon Pablo last year.

The militant group said the Aquino administration received donations from Australia amounting to P 210 million, Canada (P 10 million), US P 140 million, Indonesia (P 43 million), 500 million New Zealand dollars from New Zealand, 30,000 US dollars from China and 50,000 Singaporean dollars from Singapore.  “What happened to these foreign aid remains big question mark because no report and proper accounting were made. ” The foreign donors should learn its’ lesson well and must distrust this administration to the highest order,” the group added.

The group said also until now the Aquino government has yet to account for the P 22 million assistance it received from the government of Japan and another P 160 million from the European Union for the victims of typhoon Pablo.  ###

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