WTO fish-subsidy written in blank space – Filipino fisherfolk
Manila, Philippines – Small-scale fisherfolk belonging to the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) downplays the World Trade Organization (WTO) proposal to cut fisheries subsidies on its member states, saying small and subsistent fisherfolk across the globe have not even felt the subsidies since the free-trade agreement has commenced. The proposal mainly came from the European Union (EU) which seeks to achieve the 2020 targets set out in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In a statement, the group, which also a member of the across-the-world fishers network World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP), said they didn’t even notice that there is an existing subsidy because it never reaches through them.
“The fishing sector across the globe especially those in the third world countries remain poorest of the poor, this is mainly because of the anti-fishing laws and programs from their respective states, plus the lack of subsidies and government support that will uplift their impoverished lives,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
Hicap said that in the Philippines, the government allots P100 million annually for the modernization of fishing industry under the Fisheries Code of 1998, but said it is actually meant for large-scale commercial fishing corporations instead to the small fisherfolk. That is the reason why fishing sector in the country still remains backward. Citing the data of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), only 32% of fisherfolk in a municipal level owns mechanized boats with only 3-16 horsepower, while 68% still uses backward and primitive fishing gears like paddled boats and fishing rods, some don’t even own any fishing gear at all.
PAMALAKAYA said fisheries subsidy per se has nothing to do with overcapacity and overfishing of our marine resources, the WTO just uses the subsidy wrong. The group instead proposes that the subsidy be converted to the small-scale and subsistent fisherfolk in order to modernize their backward fishing gear and be able to keep pace with the large-scale commercial fishing fleets that exploit the fishing waters allotted for municipal fisherfolk.
The group also lashes out at the European Union (EU) for its misconception on the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) which leads countries like ours to set stricter fishing rules and regulations which make the small fishers the biggest losers. The requirement of free-trade agreements like the WTO to export tons after tons of fish products to foreign markets fuel these kinds of illegal and unregulated activities in the seas because commercial fishers seem to be on a race to cater the needs of the foreign markets like the European Union.
The fisherfolk group demands genuine and sufficient state-subsidies and support to advance their productivity and to end the long-standing export-oriented local production in order to sustain the country’s food security.
The WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference will be held in Buenos Aires on December 2017. ###