PAMALAKAYA to spearhead anti-Fisheries Code campaign
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) is set to lead an across-the-nation campaign to junk the 19-year old Fisheries Code of 1998 which according to the group is the main reason why the fishing sector remains poorest of the poor in the country.
The group said the amended Fisheries Code under the Republic Act 10654 exacerbates the miserable condition of the already impoverished fisherfolk through the excessive fees and taxes.
The national anti-fisheries code campaign at the minimum, aims to put a moratorium on the Boat Registration (BoatR) and Fisherfolk Registration (FishR) programs, which the fisherfolk complains for its hefty fees; while the central goal is to for the total scrapping of the law.
“The Fisheries Code still allows export-based commercial fishing fleets to exploit the municipal fishing waters that are intended for small-fishers. The amendments do not actually change anything in the law, rather, repressive fishing provisions like the registration and reporting scheme have been added to curtail the fishing activities of the fisherfolk,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
With the new provisions of the Fisheries Code, small fisherfolk are obliged to register their fishing boats, gears, and even themselves. Thus the once free profession has now a price that is detrimental for the small fishers. Fishers are also mandated to report their fish catch before the designated fish landing centers.
CARAGA fishers, farmers stage Manila Protest Caravan against Martial Law
Manila, Philippines – On the third month of President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, around 200 combined fishers and farmers from Region XIII CARAGA under the national fisherfolk and peasant groups Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) arrived in Manila for a month-long protest caravan dubbed as “Lakbayan at Kampuhan ng Maralita mula sa Kanayunan ng CARAGA” to register their plight in the countryside and demand the Duterte administration of the lifting of the extended martial law in whole Mindanao.
At least 50 fisherfolk from the provinces of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte brought their sentiments regarding the excessive taxes and fees, strict restrictions and fishing regulations under the amended Fisheries Code of 1998 or the Republic Act 10654 which was enacted during then-President Benigno Aquino III.
The amended Fisheries Code promulgates to curtail the so-called illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) which the fisheries department blames on the exploitation of fishing resources. But the fisherfolk group said the enforcement of the amended law in reality targets small time fisherfolk who are unable to comply with their registration scheme rather than the giant commercial fishing fleets that use destructive and exploitive fishing technologies.
“While the designated sea patrols of the BFAR are very rigorous in enforcing the law to small fisherfolk, big-time commercial fishing fleets continue to exploit fishing resources that are allotted for the municipal fisherfolk in the first place. They use sophisticated fishing technologies that are relatively destructive and exploitative compared to our backward fishing gears,”
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.
Fisheries Code legalizes rise of aquaculture – fisherfolk group
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Wednesday blamed the Fisheries Code of 1998 for the proliferation of privately-owned vast aquacultures in the Philippine waters.
Corporate takeover of the country’s fishing waters is done through the Fisheries Code’s Foreshore and Fishpond Lease Agreement (FLA) which allows an individual to lease and occupy up to 50 hectares of fishing waters, while commercial fishing firms up to 250 hectares for 25 years and renewable for another 25 years.
Citing Laguna de Bay as an example, the fisherfolk group said the 90-thousand hectares brackish lake has been occupied by vast-tracts of fish pens for years depriving small fisherfolk of their common fishing resources.
“Nothing has to blame but this 19-year old fisheries law for the proliferation of wide aquacultures in our fishing waters. The growing number of aquacultures in the Philippine waters causes overcrowding, exploitation and pollution of our rich fishing grounds. The granting of foreshore and fishpond lease contracts to big aquaculture firms must stop,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
Fisherfolk wants moratorium on boat and fish registration scheme
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) calls for a temporary suspension of some of the provisions on the amended Fisheries Code of 1998 or Republic Act 10654, particularly the Boat Registration (BoatR) and Fisherfolk Registration (FishR), one of the new highlights in the amended Fisheries Code. The fisherfolk group said this is another burden for the small fisherfolk who barely earn enough to sustain their families’ daily expenses.
The BoatR, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is designed to fast-track and complete the nationwide fishing vessels registration with capacity of three gross tons (GT) and below while the FishR aims to register fisherfolk in the country to come up with a national database system.
Pamalakaya said under the BoatR and FishR, fisherfolk register their fishing boats and gears and even themselves to their respective municipal government annually with corresponding fees.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson Fernando Hicap, which is also a fisherman in Rosario, Cavite said he has paid at least P5, 000 for the registration of his fishing boat and other gears.
“This registration scheme is ridiculous and absurd. Why would the government require the fisherfolk and even their fishing gears to get registered? Fishing sector is the poorest in the country; they bear the brunt of commercial fishing proliferation and the decreasing income due to decreasing fish catch in the municipal fishing waters. What they need is concrete government support and aid, not another hefty fees and taxes,” Hicap said.
Hicap said this registration scheme is prone to corruption to local government and even officials.
“Local government units are empowered to impose exorbitant fees and regressive taxation in accordance with the Fisheries Code. Even before the registration scheme, fisherfolk were already paying different taxes and fees and it has become the milking cow and money making scheme of some local and national government officials,”
The fisherfolk group is gearing on a nationally coordinated protest on the 19th year anniversary of the Fisheries Code of 1998 on February 24 to call for the abrogation of the said law and push for a new and genuine fisheries reform law that will truly benefor the interest of the small fisherfolk. ###