Balikatan exercise impedes fishing activity in Zambales – fisherfolk group
Manila, Philippines – The activist fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) said an undeclared fishing ban in Zambales due to Balikatan exercise is in effect.
Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) is an annual military exercise between the Filipino and American troops as agreed on Philippine-United States military agreements such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). This year’s Balikatan which is being held in San Antonio, Zambales from May 8-18, consists of almost 5,000 Filipino troops and 3,000 American soldiers, while there are also troops from Australia, Japan, and South Korea as observers.
The fisherfolk group said Balikatan exercises, especially those in coastal areas, are always incorporated with fishing ban to provide blanket security to the American forces. The coastal-based group said the ongoing Balikatan exercise likely affects not less than 20,000 fisherfolk from San Antonio and other neighboring coastal towns in Zambales.
“We condemn this new batch of military drill that sacrifices the socio-economic rights of Filipino fishers only to please the American masters of the Philippine government. No fisherfolk will dare to sail in the militarized waters because Filipino and American soldiers are obviously mobilizing thousands of their troops to impose an intimidating presence among the fishing communities in the province,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement, assailing President Rodrigo Duterte’s subservience to the United States by allowing the American troops to exploit our soil as a mere launching pad for war on aggression.
Fisherfolk calls Cimatu’s order on protected areas “anti-environment”
Manila, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has earned the ire of the activist fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) over the resumption of the special use agreement for protected areas (SAPA), saying this opens the floodgates for environmental destruction to the country’s pristine protected areas.
SAPA allows protected areas such as strict nature reserve, natural park, natural monument, wildlife sanctuary, protected landscapes and seascapes to be used for agroforestry, ecotourism, communication and power facilities, irrigation canals, aquaculture, and for weather and other scientific monitoring facilities.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2011 suspended the issuance of SAPA.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson Fernando Hicap said the lifting of the suspension of SAPA lays open our preserved areas such as forest and marine zones to corporate activities that pose environmental disaster.
“With the resumption of issuance of SAPA, protected areas will be more vulnerable to various forms of corporate plunder embedded with environmental destruction. It will further the conversion of preserved marine areas into mere ecotourism zones and private aquaculture farms,”
Fisherfolk deplores Chinese installation of missile systems in Spratlys
Manila, Philippines – The activist fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) strongly condemns the deployment of missile systems of China on the three artificial islands in Kalayaan Group of Islands (internationally Spratly Islands).
Reports claimed that China has installed cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross), Zamora Reef (Subi), and Panganiban Reef (Mischief) – three of the seven reefs seized and transformed by China into artificial islands despite the international arbitration decision invalidating their claim.
“We condemn China’s installation of military armaments in our marine territory in the strongest possible terms. China has already reached the peak of violating our sovereign and territorial rights. And this is despite the existence of an international law which guarantees that the West Philippine Sea are indisputably part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
PAMALAKAYA assailed the Duterte government’s constant silence on the issue, blaming President Rodrigo Duterte on why the contested waters are now armed and militarized.
“We hold Duterte accountable over this Chinese takeover of our marine territory and resources. His consistent defeatist approach on this long-running sea row has now led to complete transformation of our resource-rich territory into a fortified Chinese military zone,” added Hicap, calling all Filipinos and patriots to unite and defend the territory against Chinese invasion and other forms of foreign intervention.
“We call on the Filipino patriots to unite and actively assert our exclusive rights in the West Philippine Sea. We have no illusions that our President will step up to his role as chief executive and uphold our sovereign rights and territorial integrity,” ended Hicap. ###
Immediate rehabilitation for displaced workers in Boracay urged
Manila, Philippines – In time of the Labor Day, the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) urged the Duterte government to expedite the assistance for more than 30,000 workers displaced by the 6-month closure of Boracay that started in April 26.
Boracay Island, which Duterte tagged as a “cesspool”, has 430 registered hotels and accommodations employing an estimated 19,000 registered employees; while around 17, 000 workers are from the informal sector including masseurs, tattoo artists, and vendors by the beach.
“While Duterte is promulgating the rehabilitation of Boracay, there is also an urgent need to rehabilitate thousands of displaced workers who stand affected by the government’s unprecedented total closure. Workers need government assistance in a form of economic subsidy and relief because a 6-month closure is equivalent to 6 months of hunger and joblessness,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
Although the fisherfolk group is calling for economic support for the affected workers, Hicap clarified they are still opposed to the total closure and the planned casino in the island. He said his group together with other concerned sectors will continue to investigate the underlying motive behind the total closure and will publicly expose President Duterte’s sinister agenda to transform the leisure island into foreign gambling island at the expense of the country’s patrimonial rights.
Fisherfolk, environmentalists trooped DENR to protest Boracay closure, construction of casino
Manila, Philippines – Two days before the 6-month closure of Boracay, the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) and environmental activist KALIKASAN People’s Network for the Environment (PNE) staged a joint picket at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to oppose the total closure and the impending construction of a 23-hectare casino in the country’s top tourist island.
President Rodrigo Duterte slammed Boracay as a “cesspool” and ordered its temporary closure to pave way for rehabilitation. But the order of rehabilitation comes into conflict with the reports that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) had approved the construction of a $500-million integrated casino-resort proposed by Macau-based casino giant Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. together with its local partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC).
“It is clear that the rehabilitation effort of Duterte is only a vehicle for clearing small businesses and opening Boracay to big-time developers that will intensify the exploitation of the island. We will oppose this grand sellout and corporate takeover of our natural resources at all cost,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
Aside from the Macau-type casino-resort, a certain DoubleDragon Properties Corp. has expressed its interest to build the country’s largest hotel by room count dubbed as the Hotel101 Resorts in Boracay.
PAMALAKAYA slams militarization in Boracay
Manila, Philippines – In a protest staged by the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) today, the rural-based group slashed the militarization in Boracay during its 6-month closure that will start on April 26.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) tapped the 630-member Joint Task Force Boracay from the regional police supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and civic groups. Also, the PCG sent a multi-role response vessel (MRRV) to conduct maritime security patrols around the island.
“President Duterte never disclosed to the public that his supposedly rehabilitation plan includes deployment of police forces in a full battle gear. We can’t see the point of militarizing the tourist island but to sow intimidation and curtail civil rights of the residents who stand affected by the 6-month closure,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said during the protest.
“Rehabilitate marine resources, not a lecture on territorial boundaries” –
PAMALAKAYA tells Go
Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) tells the Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go to explore the ocean deep and study the plight of the fisherfolk and the deteriorating condition of municipal waters that force them to go beyond the territorial waters.
Speaking before 31 fisherfolk repatriated from Indonesia after being detained for illegal entry and fishing in their territory, Go said Filipino fishers should be taught with territorial boundaries to avoid arrest.
For its part, PAMALAKAYA said the depleting fish catch in the municipal fishing waters due to intrusion of commercial fishing fleets that exploit marine stocks leaves the Filipino fishers no choice but to venture outside the territorial waters with the risk of getting caught for illegal entry or worst, get into unexpected accidents caused by rough and unfamiliar seas.
“Allow us to explain to Go how the fishing works. The irony is that despite being an archipelagic country, Filipino fishers have to undertake the risks of going to foreign waters because municipal waters are running out of fish stocks courtesy of large-scale commercial fishing fleets that exploit its marine resources. Another main factor of marine degradation is the government’s destructive reclamation projects that kill mangroves, corals, and other fish spawning areas,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.