Group slams absence of external security allocation in 2018 defense budget
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Monday questioned the 2018 proposed budget for the Department of National Defense (DND) that is worth P145 billion if this includes the development of external defense that will uphold our territory and sovereignty against foreign intervention, particularly against China who continues to claim most part of the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA lambasts the large budget allocation for the national defense which will definitely be used for its repressive war campaigns such as the all-out-war and martial law in the whole Mindanao.
“Instead of developing our external defense capabilities, the government is more devoted to its self-declared war against its so-called internal threat which actually targets ordinary civilians on the ground. We are dismayed that President Duterte has no plan to modernize our naval equipments to defend our sovereign rights from China’s illegal occupation and reclamation in our waters,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
The group says increasing the fighting capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should curtail the external threat rather than using it to intensify attacks against its own people under the banner of total war, war against drugs, and war on terror.
“The budget for defense is obviously a coffer to step up state-perpetrated offensives against the Filipino people especially those who actively resist government’s repressive policies and laws. President Duterte downplays the evident threat to our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” added Hicap.
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.
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 to Duterte: Assert sovereignty against foreign intervention
Manila, Philippines – “President Duterte must fervently uphold our sovereignty against any foreign domination, whether it be the United States (U.S.) or China,”
This was the response of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) when a Washington-based think tank group Center for Strategic and International Studies (CISS) said to President Rodrigo Duterte to assert the country’s right over the disputed West Philippine Sea.
China for years has been posing its irrational claim in almost 90% of the South China Sea, of which $5 trillion dollar-worth of global ship trade passes each year. This includes the 80% of the country’s 220-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and another 150 extended continental shelf (ECS). The dispute has inflicted threat to the livelihood of the Filipino fishers who were deprived of their traditional fishing grounds since the sea row occurred. But due to the collective action of the patriotic sectors in the country and the initiative of the Duterte administration to talk diplomatically to China, the Filipino fishers have now been able to return to their fishing ground since last year.
Fishers rejoice as they return to Scarborough Shoal
Manila, Philippines – The patriotic fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) rejoices as the Filipino fishers are now able to return and fish in the Scarborough Shoal.
Since Tuesday, Filipino fishers from Zambales and Pangasinan have been fishing in Scarborough Shoal without them being harassed and chased by the Chinese Coast Guards unlike before. This was after President Duterte’s state visit to China last October 18-21 where he had an informal talk with an unnamed Chinese leader regarding the territorial dispute.
“We welcome President Duterte’s concrete deeds to make our fishermen return to their traditional fishing grounds in Scarborough Shoal. Moreover, it is an initial victory for the Filipino fishermen who consistently aired their collective voices to assert their rights to the West Philippine Sea. Without the unity of the fisherfolk and other patriotic sectors and alliance who took up to the streets and engaged with government officials, we may not be able to take our territory back,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya Chairperson said in a statement.