Fisherfolks remain poorest


BAGUIO CITY — Filipino fisher folk remain to be among the poorest farmers in the country, Dr. Fabian Dayrit, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST) said at the regional scientific meeting Luzon cluster held here on May 15 and 16.

In Dayrit’s speech, he quoted data from the National Statistic Authority in 2012 which showed that the highest poverty incidence came from the fishing sector at the poverty rate of almost 40% (2 out of five fisher folks) had an income of only P52 per day.

According to Dayrit, the 2016 labor force survey reveals that from the 40 million workers in the country only 3.2 million are from the fisher folk despite our country’s extensive coastline.

From people on the ground, In previous interviews with Ferdinand Rendon, the vice chairman of Timek ken Namnama dagiti Babassit a Mangngalap ti La Union (Timek-La Union), said that a day’s work of fishing could not provide for his family. Aside from the limitation of not owning a fishing boat, the burden of high cost of fuel and boat rent, he could not earn more than P100 from a day’s catch.

According to Timek, among the main problems of the small fisher folk in La Union is that they could not compete with commercial fishing vessels allowed to operate along their traditional fishing grounds. Small fisher folk feel the impact of less income also because of an ordinance that prohibits them from catching galunggong (a favorite poor man’s fish for food) while allowing commercial fishing vessels.

Timek also said that fisher folk are facing the threat of losing their livelihood because of the proposal of the province to declare some areas of La Union as Marine Protected Areas. In line with this declaration, six barangays are affected by the building of the “core zone”. Wherein fisher folks are not allowed to fish.

While NAST emphasized on the big potential for the Philippines in terms of water resources, it also recognized the problem of the prevailing poverty among our fisher folks. The Luzon wide regional scientific meeting focused on formulating policy recommendations on appropriate interventions in attaining sustainable development goals in Philippine fisheries and other aquatic resources. It has not however given focus on how these proposed policy interventions are to alleviate the prevailing poverty status of the fisher folk sector.

In the regional meet, Fornunato Dela Pena, the Secretary of Department of Science and Technology, the specific objective of this meeting was to highlight the importance of the marine ecosystem in the national economy.

On the meeting data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, it showed that the Philippines ranked 8th on the top fish producing countries in the world, and it was the 3rd largest producer of aquatic plants in 2014. In 2015 the total volume of fish production in the country was 4.6 metric tons which was valued P140 Billion. The sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 1.5%.

Dayrit also stated that marine resources should have a more important role in the country’s development plans. The meeting intended to highlight the importance of the sea, rivers and lakes to the national economy, to show the current efforts to utilize water base resources and to determine emerging problems and explore opportunities for growth. He also pointed out the intention of the regional meeting to highlight policy imperatives such as forming laws to enhance efforts to utilize the country’s fisheries and water resources for national development and poverty elevation.

Dayrit expressed the meeting’s objective was to suggest the creation of the department of fisheries and aquatic resources.

According to Rafael Guerrero III the main speaker of the science legislative forum towards blue economy, there is a need to create a Department of Fisheries and aquatic resources, separate from the Department of agriculture (DA). He said, that there has been a review process of the bills which propose on the separation of Department of Fisheries and aquatic resources separate from DA; Senate Bills written by Senator Francis Pangilinan, senator Loren Legarda and from senator Pia Honteveros. He also expressed that the DA has a limited budget for the fisheries sector.

However, from the website of the fisher folk group, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said that anti-fisherfolk laws, programs and policies are the primary reason why our fisher folk, despite being in an archipelagic country remains poorest among the poor up to date, and not because of the absence of a fisheries department.

Quoting Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya’s Chairperson and former Anakpawis Partylist solon, “We are not against the creation of a separate department for fisheries, but it should as well reorient its policies, laws and programs governing our fishing sector. Adaptation of the current fishing laws and policies won’t change anything but it will be another department hived by bureaucratic and corrupt officials making profit out of our poor fishers’ toil”.

The fisherfolk group calls for a comprehensive and holistic transformation and reorientation of the Bureau of Fisheries into a pro-fisherfolk agency by enacting a new and genuine fisheries reform law. #


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