National Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission in the West Philippine Sea

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The fact finding team was led by fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA, BAYAN Central Luzon, Move Now Zambales together with Anakpawis partylist, CEC, Alansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), Migrante partylist, Church people, P1NAS convenor Liza Maza, former Senator Leticia Shahani and the local fisherfolk and residents in Zambales and Subic.

Candelaria, Zambales 09/20/2015

Executive Summary: National Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission

We, the participants from different multi-sectoral organizations, held from  September

18-20, the first grassroots-initiated  National Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission (NFFSM) in the province of Zambales. During this mission, we found that the fisherfolk – men and women, are facing specific problems as a result of Chinese incursions on the West Phillipine Sea particularly on Scarborough Shoal. The denial of the fisherfolk’s right to fish on the Scarborough Shoal has significantly reduced their income and has worsened their condition, putting the fisherfolk in crisis as they struggle to survive from their daily catch.

This situation of the small fisherfolk and medium fishing operators is ironic in the context of the archipelagic Philippines with its rich and abundant marine resources and a coastline which is fifth longest in the world that comprises four-fifths of the country’s marine resources and rich bio-diversity.

The NFFSSM concluded that to protect our waters for the next generation, the Philippines needs to defend their resource-rich waters against Chinese incursions and that of other foreign interests. This first grassroots fact finding mission needs to be expanded at the national level to enhance the data,

and to draw the interest and large-scale participation of the fisherfolk and the Filipino people.

Methodology

The NFFSM aimed to gather data regarding the actual conditions and impacts of

Chinese incursions on the West Philippine sea and on the aspirations and calls of the fisherfolk of Zambales.

The group conducted key informant interviews and focus group discussions with fisherfolk and dialogue with Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. and other local government officials down to the barangay level.

Findings

The respondents in the towns of Iba, Masinloc, Subic and San Antonio identified restrictions of fishing operations in and around Bajo de Masinloc as the main concern of fisherfolk. The fisherfolk considers Bajo de Masinloc as a traditional saf
e harbor during turbulent weather and rich source of catch as breeding ground of fish. However, starting 2012, the Chinese have become aggressive and hostile in refusing Filipino fishers to even go near the area.

In one of the discussions, one fishworker shared that before the dispute with China erupted, they used to earn Php3,500 per trip to Bajo de Masinloc which usually lasts three to four days during fishing season in the months of February-May. Due to the incidents of harassment by the Chinese, the fisherfolk are fearful of going to Bajo de Masinloc and are forced to look for alternative sources of income.

In the town of Sta. Cruz the interviews reveal that the concerns of fisherfolk are the following:

  1. confinement of fishing operations within municipal waters;
  2. decrease in fish catch;
  3. water pollution due to sediments from mining operations, intensive use of feeds in fish cages and coal-fired power plant emissions;
  4. fines and penalties from violations of municipal ordinances;
  5. imposition of laws and policies that pertain to fishers and coastal areas by pertinent government agencies without full and thorough public consultations and social acceptability.

In all areas, though they have identified several issues, the fisherfolk have expressed frustration and disempowerment
about their current situation. Some government projects have been mentioned but the respondents admitted that these do not bring concrete and significant improvement to the lives of the fishers.

Based on the foregoing and the demands expressed by the respondents, the NFFSM recommends the following:

  1. To the national government, particularly the executive departmentProvide immediate relief and direct support to the most vulnerable segment of the fishing sector, such as upgrade the technology used by small fisherfolk;
    • Provide basic fishing gears, motorized boats, fishing nets and other materials;
    • Ensure the right of the fisherfolk to resume fishing in Bajo de Masinloc;
    • Assert the rights of Filipino fisherfolk to Philippine waters and marine resources;
    • Review national government policies, programs which affect fishing sector, such as the Fisheries Code, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, Mining Act of 1995, Philippine Energy Development Plan;
    • Make decisive actions to stop all acts of violence and aggression of Chinese military forces against Filipino fisherfolk;
    • Defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines and pursue an independent foreign policy;
    • Forge unity with nearby states in protecting the Coral Triangle and shared marine resources and environment.

Further, the mission calls on the national government agencies to express strong positions and actions to stop China and other foreign interests from encroaching on Philippine territories, even as it notes and acknowledges the Philippine Navy statement submitted to the mission.

  1. To the local government:
    • Repeal the zoning ordinances and other anti-fisherfolk policy and programs;
    • Issue a moratorium on regressive taxation imposed on small fisherfolk.

Lastly, the NFFSM expresses its commitment to support the plight of fisherfolk and call on all
fisherfolks and all patriotic sectors to do the same because the issue of the country’s
sovereignty is the concern of all.

The NFFSM was organized by Pamalakaya Pilipinas, Bayan Central Luzon, Move Now Zambales, Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson in partnership with Anakpawis Partylist, Center for Environmental Concerns Phils., Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) and Alay Bayan Luzon. The participating organizations are Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), Piglas Navotas, Migrante International, Karapatan CL, Anakbayan Tarlac, Katribu CL, Pinoy Weekly, Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Patria), Justice and Peace Desk of MSC, College Editors Guild of the Philippines CL, Aguman Dareng Maglalautang Capampangan (AMC), Sagipin ang Kalikasan para sa Kinabukasan (Sagip), SAMA-Sagip Zambales.

Copies of the full report will be disseminated to the government and its various agencies at the national and local levels and to non-governmental and peoples’ organizations for campaigns and people’s actions and policy advocacy.

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