“Speak up on Benham Rise issue!” – DENR, BFAR told
Manila, Philippines – “In the midst of the raging controversy regarding the Philippine Rise, the deafening silence of two government lead agencies, namely, the BFAR and the DENR is utterly disappointing,” according to the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas), urging the two agencies to speak up and make a stand against the government’s sell-out of our marine territory.
The group said Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are supposed to be at the forefront of conducting research in the fishing resources and management of the marine biodiversity of the rise.
Philippine Rise is a 13-million-hectare resource rich underwater plateau located opposite to the disputed South China Sea, it has been declared by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in April 2012 as part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Through the Executive Order No. 25 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in May last year, the undersea feature has been renamed from Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.
Aside from China, the Duterte administration has approved research applications from several countries such as Japan, United States, and South Korea; which was opposed by the fishers group, saying it is a gross violation of our patrimony and tantamount to surrender of sovereign rights.
The fisherfolk group noted that BFAR and DENR have already conducted exploratory trips and research on the plateau before.
“Mining magnates run DENR, MICC” – fisherfolk group
Manila, Philippines – “We strongly condemn Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for auctioning our environment to big-time mining corporations by lifting the ban on open-pit mining,”
This was the statement of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) calling out Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for reversing the policy of former Secretary Gina Lopez to ban open-pit mining operations during her term.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu on Tuesday lifted the ban after meeting with the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), which Cimatu and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez co-chair the government body.
“We are enraged by how Secretary Cimatu and the members of the MICC have fast tracked the reversal of policy on open-pit mining. We are against open-pit mining because it effectively devastates the delicate environment, contaminates watersheds and other coastal areas, and moreover, it destroys the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolk in the countryside,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
The group said by institutionalizing the open-pit mining, Cimatu has not only scrapped the pro-environment policies of his predecessor Gina Lopez, but he also blatantly neglects the cry for social justice of rural people who have been affected and displaced by the destructive mining activity.
The fisherfolk group also blames President Rodrigo Duterte for keeping mum on the DENR’s approved policy.
“It’s all on President Duterte and his Cabinet members who have direct and indirect mining interests like Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez who has been staunch against Lopez’ ban order. It seems President Duterte’s anti-open-pit mining position before has now been swayed by his economic cluster,” said Hicap.
According to environmental activist Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, the Dominguez clan has stakes in mining companies, such as Alsons, Sagitarrius Mines, Lafayette Philippines, United Paragon Mining, and Philex Mining.
“It is now crystal clear that the environment department is back at the hands of giant mining oligarchs and private developers,”
“We hold President Duterte, Roy Cimatu, and every members of the MICC accountable for this flagrant betrayal and disrespect on the socio-economic rights and welfare of the people by allowing big-time mining firms to plunder our resources,” ended Hicap. ###
“Total ban, not higher excise tax on giant mining” – fisherfolk to Cimatu
Manila, Philippines – The newly confirmed Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has earned the ire of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) for favoring on higher excise taxes on mining instead of total closure to the industry, saying the higher tax directive would not totally halt the destructive operations of giant mining companies, but will more legitimize the plunderous activity.
“For Cimatu, it has always been money over the environment. Instead of issuing a total ban policy on all large-scale destructive mines, Cimatu resorts to lighten the verdict by imposing a higher excise tax which big-time mining firms would hardly endure,”
“No amount of billions of revenues could rehabilitate the devastated mountains and contaminated seas caused by destructive mining. Moreover, no amount of “fair government revenue” could provide social justice to farmers, fishers, and other rural people who will be displaced from their livelihood in exchange for mining operations,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
The group said the higher excise taxes on mining could barely paralyze the industry because of its billions worth of mineral resources plundered through our land.
Instead, the group demands to pursue closing of destructive mines that devastate our delicate environment and pose heavy burden to the socio-economic rights of the people, and push a responsible mining that would foster our local industries and beneficial to the Filipino people. ###
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 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.