Genuine Fisheries Reform
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.
Filipino fishers remain poorest under the 19-year old fishing rule
Manila, Philippines – As the Fisheries Code of 1998 turns 19 today, Filipino fisherfolk under the fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) slams the almost two decades fishing law as still the primary reason why their sector is still trapped in the shackles of extreme poverty.
In a protest held at Mendiola, Manila on Friday, hundreds of fisherfolk from different provinces in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon regions expressed their outrage over the Fisheries Code’s failure to uplift their impoverished lives through modernization and government support as what the fishing law has promised.
“Now is the high time for the government to assess and sum up what significant help this fishing law has done to the fishing sector for 19 years. Even the government can’t deny and hide the prevailing poverty among the fisherfolk sector,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said during the protest.
‘Aquaculture Superpower’ hit, Senator Pangilinan lacks knowledge in fisheries –
Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday chided Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan for his inaccurate statement on fisheries during his opening statement at the Public Hearing on the establishment of a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) at the Senate yesterday.
Sen. Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said our country is capable of being an “Aquaculture Superpower” due to our ‘diverse’ fishing waters. He cited top fish exporting countries like France who earned 600 million Euros annually from their oyster and mollusk industry.
For its part, the fisherfolk group opposed the idea of converting our communal fishing waters into enclosed, private aquaculture oriented for export instead of promoting an open-fishing grounds based on domestic consumption.
“It seems Senator Pangilinan is not in touch with the reality. He is incognizant of the fact that our fishing industry is backward because of the import-dependent and export oriented production. The country’s long-time reliance on export and import kills our local fish production and small producers. We export fresh marine products served in a silver platter overseas while importing low-class, putrescent fish in return. Sino’ng lugi?” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya Chairperson and a former Anakpawis Partylist solon said in a statement.
‘Stop arming the fishermen!’ – Pamalakaya to new BFAR Chief
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) on Monday denounced the militaristic approach of the new Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Eduardo Gongona in resolving the illegal activities in the Philippine waters.
This is in response to the creation of West Philippine Sea anti-illegal fishing task force and arming of the 600-Davao fishers for BFAR’s Bantay Laot Program. The Bantay Laot Program aims to equip the fishermen with weapons and run after the government’s so called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Pamalakaya said this might create rift between the fisherfolk and won’t actually solve the illegal activities in our fishing waters.
“This will be small-fishermen against small-fishermen. Instead of uniting the small fishers for the protection of our marine resources, BFAR wants to stir up a hornet’s nest between them by arming each other and running after another,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya Chairperson said in a statement.