Fisherfolk staged State of the Fishers’ Address (SOFA) to assess President Duterte
Manila, Philippines – In the form of street press conference, fisherfolk under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Friday staged its first State of the Fishers’ Address (SOFA) at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to deliver their one-year assessment on the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as to air their concerns regarding the fishing sector that the administration still needs to adhere.
Fisherfolk from Laguna de Bay, Manila Bay and Southern Tagalog region gathered to bring their respective yet common issues besetting their fishing communities. Some of the key points of the assessment were the issue of sovereignty, Laguna Lake rehabilitation, and reclamation of fishing waters.
The fisherfolk group gave a satisfactory rating on President Duterte regarding the Laguna Lake rehabilitation due to his unprecedented order to demolish vast tracts of fish pens in the 90-thousand hectare brackish lake. But the group also criticized the government’s “ningas kugon” approach on the order especially after the Secretary of DENR has been replaced by former military Chief Roy Cimatu where demolition of fish pens has been set aside.
The group urged the present administration of DENR to still pursue the clearing out of fish pens in Laguna de Bay to give time for its ecological system to restore and let the small fisherfolk savor its aquatic resources.
PAMALAKAYA on the other hand is partly satisfied on President Duterte’s efforts in pursuing our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. The group welcomes his diplomatic negotiation with China that resulted to the return of Filipino fisherfolk to Scarborough Shoal after four years of being deprived to fish in the contested area due to intense Chinese military harassment and intimidation. But even so, China has yet to give up its irrational claim over our waters. They continue to construct artificial islands intended for military use in the West Philippine Sea. The recent installations were the three military facilities in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.
PAMALAKAYA insisted that President Duterte must actively assert and defend our sovereignty against China.
The fisherfolk group lamented the continuation of Aquino’s National Reclamation Plan (NRP), now under the framework of President Duterte’s Build, Build, Build economic plan.
Hundreds of thousands of fisherfolk and coastal settlers now face the looming threat of livelihood and community displacement in completion of more than 100 reclamation projects under NRP.
“President Duterte is bound to fail his promised reforms if he continues to neglect the collective demands and sentiments of the Filipino people,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson concluded during the press conference.