Fisherfolk asks probe into marine sanctuaries in Surigao del Norte
Manila, Philippines – Fisherfolk under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Thursday urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to investigate the existing marine sanctuaries illegally operating in the province of Surigao del Norte that covers more than 600 hectares of its fishing waters.
Marine sanctuary in the municipality of General Luna covers 580 hectares in spite that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) only approved 200 hectares of sanctuary in the town. While in the municipality of San Isidro, there is an existing 33 hectares of marine sanctuary and another 30 hectares for expansion will be opened soon.
Marine Sanctuaries are designated areas declared by the BFAR where all types of fishing activities are prohibited in order to preserve marine species and give fish time to spawn. However, according to PAMALAKAYA, marine sanctuaries often lead to privatization and conversion of fishing waters into eco-tourism zones
The declared marine sanctuaries in Surigao del Norte now showcase leisure activities like boat riding, surfing, scuba diving, and sport fishing for local and foreign tourists.
“While we are being denied access from our traditional fishing zone, the local government unit opens the area to rest and recreation hub for tourists. This is the reason why we don’t buy the idea that marine sanctuaries are for the interest of small fisherfolk, because we know that the real score behind this sanctuaries is to transform the traditional use of fishing waters into money-making business both of the local government and investors,” Leopoldo Pelinta, PAMALAKAYA-Surigao del Norte Spokesperson said in a statement.
The group also contests the claim of BFAR that marine sanctuaries is for marine life protection, saying the bureau’s designated sea patrols or bantay dagat prohibit only small fishermen while inutile to destructive large-scale commercial fishing vessels. Ring net and Superlight fishing are prevalent in the municipal waters even within the declared marine sanctuaries, they are destructive especially the Superlight because it paralyzes and blinds the fish once its lamp submerge into the water. They are owned by influential politicians and individuals in the province.
Local fishermen in the province also notice the change of pattern of fish species in the region, like depletion of fish capture and loss of several fish species they used to catch before.
“How can you protect the marine environment if you convert its traditional use as a fishing ground? Eco-tourism results to ecosystem imbalance because you disturb the habitat of fish and other marine life,”
Fisherfolk laments marine sanctuary in Surigao del Norte
Manila, Philippines – The provincial chapter of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) in Surigao del Norte laments the existing marine sanctuaries covering more than 600 hectares of fishing waters in the province’s two municipalities, namely, the General Luna and San Isidro.
According to PAMALAKAYA-Surigao del Norte, the existing marine sanctuary in the municipality of General Luna is 580 hectares in spite that only 200 hectares were approved by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). While in the municipality of San Isidro, the coastal area for sanctuary is 33 hectares and another 30 hectares for expansion will be opened soon.
Marine sanctuaries are designated area declared by BFAR where all types of fishing activities are prohibited in order to preserve the marine species and pave way for the spawning of fish. However, according to PAMALAKAYA, marine sanctuaries often lead to privatization and conversion of fishing grounds into eco-tourism zone. The group also said that sanctuaries do not guarantee protection of marine species because BFAR’s bantay dagat or sea patrol is inutile to prevent the entry of large-scale commercial fishing fleets in the 15-kilometer municipal fishing area that use destructive and exploitative fishing gears like the hulbot-hulbot or Danish Seine where the latter is prevalent in the province.
The group said the declared marine sanctuaries in the province are guarded by policemen and the passageway of small fisherfolk even outside the declared area is strictly restricted.
Batangas fishers staged collective cultivation in response to demolition and recent harassment
San Juan, Batangas – Three years after being demolished from their community, hundreds of fisherfolk under the Haligi ng Batanguenong Anakdagat (HABAGAT) staged collective cultivation in Brgy. Laiya Aplaya, San Juan, Batangas as a form of unity and assertion to their right to land, shelter and livelihood. HABAGAT is the provincial chapter of the national alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) in Batangas.
In July 2014, about 600 fishing and peasant families were demolished to pave way for pseudo-development project known as the Laiya Tourism Development Plan or beach resort project. The fisherfolk in response set up barricades along the road to show that they will not leave their community.
“After three years of being ejected from our community, we are being subjected to various human rights violations and harassment including heavy militarization and intimidation in order for us to completely abandon the area,” Lino Baes, Spokesperson of HABAGAT said in a statement.
In the aftermath of demolition, elements of the 730th Combat Group Philippine Air Force (CGPAF) were deployed in the community since May 2015. Aside from the existing detachment of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) of the 59th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, there is another threat of military encampment by the 730th CGPAF to provide protection to private businesses, landlords, developers, and corporations who convert the fishing community to eco-tourism zones. In addition to this, the Macaria Development Corporation and Laiya Development Corporation, primarily owned by Federico Campos III and Victorino delos Angeles, hired private security forces and private goons to sow violence and fear against the people and to try destroy the people’s barricade against the illegal development in the community.
Since February 2017, series of violent dispersals ensued in Laiya Aplaya until last July 3, the goons and security forces hired by the Laiya Development Corp. staged indiscriminate firing resulting to wounded casualties among the encamped fisherfolk.
However, despite the violent dispersal and presence of militaries, the farmers and fisherfolk continue their protest camp and barricade to show their collective resistance against the development aggression project in their community.