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group also criticized the government’s “ningas kugon” approach on the order especially after the Secretary of DENR has been replaced by former military Chief Roy Cimatu where demolition of fish pens has been set aside.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.
All-out clear-out, not reduction of Laguna de Bay fish pens – group to LLDA
Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Monday urged the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) to complete the No Fish Pen policy in the 90-thousand hectare Laguna de Bay to give the lake ample time to recover from pollution and congestion cause by private fish pens.
The No Fish Pen policy or the one-year moratorium on fish pens under LLDA Board Resolution 518 is one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s immediate orders when he assumed office last year to rehabilitate the largest lake in the country and to prioritize the small-fisherfolk whom for years have been deprived of their traditional fishing ground due to proliferation of corporate-owned fish pens.
“The LLDA headed by its general manager Jaime Medina seems to revise their Board Resolution by toning down the order from total removal to a mere size reduction of fish pens. Big-time fish pen operators and individuals will take this as an opportunity to retain their aquaculture structures in Laguna de Bay. Reducing the size will do nothing to rehabilitate and clean the lake; it needs an all-out clearing of fish pen structures to give the lake time to unwind,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
PAMALAKAYA casts doubt on the partition of total allowable size of fish pen structures where 60% of the 9,200-hectare carrying capacity will be allotted for the small fisherfolk while the remaining 40% will be for the cooperatives and corporations. The group claims that no small-fisherfolk can even afford to build fish structure because of its costly value and given that small-fisherfolk are not earning enough to sustain their daily needs.
Fisherfolk laments suspension of ECC-restriction
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Friday chided at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu for scrapping the order of his predecessor Gina Lopez to restrict the issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECC) for both environmentally critical projects (ECPs) and non-ECPs.
Under the DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2017-18, Secretary Cimatu suspends Lopez’ DAO No. 2017-04 to fast track issuance of environmental certificates to the regional level. Under Lopez’ DAO, only the DENR Secretary has the sole authority to issue ECCs for both ECPs and non-ECPs within environmentally critical areas (ECAs). This was Lopez’ efforts to alleviate corruption and anomalous issuances of environmental permits to destructive projects like large-scale mining. But Cimatu gives back the authority to issue such permits back to the regional directors of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
For its part, the fisherfolk group was dismayed by the present DENR Secretary’s order, saying this would be business as usual for the mining and developing magnates who are in league with unscrupulous and corrupt DENR regional directors that can easily acquire ECC for their destructive projects.
“We are not incognizant to the fact that big-time developers and mining companies manage to acquire environmental certificates despite their destructive type of business because of their secret connivance with corrupt DENR regional directors,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
Duterte’s unstable promises
Fisherfolk’s one-year assessment to President Duterte
Manila, Philippines – “Among the prominent achievement of President Rodrigo Duterte within one year in his office is the unprecedented order to demolish vast tracts of fishpens in Laguna de Bay, which for years deprived the small fisherfolk of their communal fishing ground. The campaign was spearheaded by then environment Secretary Gina Lopez. We monitor that more than 1,000 hectares of fishpens have been demolished from the time of former Secretary Lopez, until she was rejected by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) and her position was taken over by ex-military Chief Roy Cimatu, where the campaign started by Lopez, by our knowledge is currently put on halt,” Fernando Hicap, Chairperson of fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) said in a statement.
“On our sovereignty, we welcome President Duterte’s efforts to hold diplomatic negotiations with China resulting to the return of Filipino fisherfolk in Scarborough Shoal, after almost four years of being denied access to their traditional fishing zone due to intense Chinese militarization and hostility. But even so, the effort of President Duterte is not enough for China to completely surrender its irrational claim over our waters. Contrary to his promise, PresidentDuterte softens his assertion to China to stop its reclamation and leave the Philippine waters,” added Hicap.
“President Duterte has been mum on the long-time clamor of the fisherfolk to junk the almost two decades Fisheries Code of 1998, which was amended in time of President Benigno Aquino III through the Republic Act 10654. The hefty fines and strict fishing rules of the amended fisheries law afflict the fishing sector into deeper poverty. With the amended Fisheries Code, small-fishers today endure the heavy taxation and registration fees under the Boat Registration (BoatR) and Fish Registration (FishR) programs where they are compelled to enlist their fishing gears and even themselves to the local government only to be considered by the fisheries bureau as legal fisherfolk,” said Hicap.
“We are not surprised on why the administration pursues and actually widens the National Reclamation Program (NRP) and the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) which consists of multifold infrastructure projects. The “Dutertenomics” or the administration’s economic program focuses on major infrastructures largely funded by China. Some of the projects are land-based while some will be built on top of the water through reclamation and conversion of fishing waters. NRP consists of more than 100 reclamation projects covering 40,000 hectares of waters throughout the archipelago. These reclamation projects if completed would result to displacement of millions of fisherfolk and coastal settlers from their livelihood to pave way for private and even government projects,” Hicap lamented.
Fisherfolk welcomes seed distribution in Laguna de Bay, calls to pursue fishpen demolition
Manila, Philippines – The national fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Wednesday acknowledged the government’s dispersal of 5 million fingerlings in Laguna de Bay through the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The restocking of native fish species in the 90-thousand hectare brackish lake is part of the government’s campaign to rehabilitate inland waters such as lakes and rivers.
In a statement, the fisherfolk group said the seeding in Laguna de Bay is a welcome development for this will temporarily support the livelihood of small fisherfolk and fishworkers who were affected by the government’s campaign to demolish vast tracts of fish pens in the lake.
PAMALAKAYA together with environment alliance Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) raised the demand to distribute fingerlings to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) during the term of its former Secretary Gina Lopez. This is to solve the prevailing problem in the lake of fish catch depletion and to assure the fishworkers who lost livelihood due to fishpen demolition that once they return to open fishing, there will be enough fish to catch.
“We are grateful that the government grants the demand of the fisherfolk for livelihood support. We still call for more fingerling-dispersal drive to convince the fisherfolk to return to traditional mode of fishing instead of being employed in private aquacultures in exchange for paltry allowance,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
Fisherfolk unsatisfied over DENR Chief Cimatu’s say on Nickelodeon project
Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) is not pleased with the statement of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on the proposed Nickelodeon underwater-theme Park in Palawan.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Friday said it will first conduct a “thorough inquiry regarding the proposed project” as they await the formal request of the said project.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA said they expect Secretary Cimatu to oppose the project without reservation because it is no doubt that the project will pose environmental disaster to the country’s last ecological frontier.
Experts and environmentalists have already proven the adverse impact of this project, whether underwater or land-based, will bring to the marine environment for it will cause ecological disturbance to its marine biodiversity and ecosystem.
“Although we welcome Secretary Cimatu’s immediate response on the project, we are not that satisfied. We find his statement playing safe and dilly dallying on the looming threat of development destruction to our marine environment. What we want is for the new DENR administration to outrightly defy the project and extend his support to the fisherfolk who will be economically affected if the project will proceed,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
PAMALAKAYA recognizes former Environment Chief Gina Lopez’ stiff position against the proposed project where she even declared Palawan province as off-limits to destructive projects.
“We remind Secretary Cimatu of Gina Lopez’ good deeds when she was still the top environment official. Why can’t Cimatu be like his predecessor who has indisputable concern for the environment and the people,” added Hicap.
The fisherfolk group likewise urges the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PSCD) to deplore the project. PSCD is a government body that focuses on environment conservation and inclusive development in the province of Palawan.
“Our fishing hub is not krusty krab; it is a home to more than 300 coral species and more than 1,500 fish species in the country that benefits not only the fisherfolk but every single population who relies on fish as primary protein source. It should remain as it is. Once we convert the area from its traditional use, there is no way that we can bring back its original and bountiful ecosystem,” Hicap said.
The 400-hectare controversial underwater theme park in Coron, Palawan which drew flak from environmentalists, netizens, and fisherfolk organizations is still being pushed by its proponents – the Coral World Park Undersea Resorts and the Viacom International Media Networks, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT). ###