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.
Fisherfolk laments suspension of ECC-restriction
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Friday chided at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu for scrapping the order of his predecessor Gina Lopez to restrict the issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECC) for both environmentally critical projects (ECPs) and non-ECPs.
Under the DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2017-18, Secretary Cimatu suspends Lopez’ DAO No. 2017-04 to fast track issuance of environmental certificates to the regional level. Under Lopez’ DAO, only the DENR Secretary has the sole authority to issue ECCs for both ECPs and non-ECPs within environmentally critical areas (ECAs). This was Lopez’ efforts to alleviate corruption and anomalous issuances of environmental permits to destructive projects like large-scale mining. But Cimatu gives back the authority to issue such permits back to the regional directors of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
For its part, the fisherfolk group was dismayed by the present DENR Secretary’s order, saying this would be business as usual for the mining and developing magnates who are in league with unscrupulous and corrupt DENR regional directors that can easily acquire ECC for their destructive projects.
“We are not incognizant to the fact that big-time developers and mining companies manage to acquire environmental certificates despite their destructive type of business because of their secret connivance with corrupt DENR regional directors,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
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.
Fisherfolk welcomes seed distribution in Laguna de Bay, calls to pursue fishpen demolition
Manila, Philippines – The national fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Wednesday acknowledged the government’s dispersal of 5 million fingerlings in Laguna de Bay through the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The restocking of native fish species in the 90-thousand hectare brackish lake is part of the government’s campaign to rehabilitate inland waters such as lakes and rivers.
In a statement, the fisherfolk group said the seeding in Laguna de Bay is a welcome development for this will temporarily support the livelihood of small fisherfolk and fishworkers who were affected by the government’s campaign to demolish vast tracts of fish pens in the lake.
PAMALAKAYA together with environment alliance Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) raised the demand to distribute fingerlings to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) during the term of its former Secretary Gina Lopez. This is to solve the prevailing problem in the lake of fish catch depletion and to assure the fishworkers who lost livelihood due to fishpen demolition that once they return to open fishing, there will be enough fish to catch.
“We are grateful that the government grants the demand of the fisherfolk for livelihood support. We still call for more fingerling-dispersal drive to convince the fisherfolk to return to traditional mode of fishing instead of being employed in private aquacultures in exchange for paltry allowance,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.