Fisheries 101: The poor situation of small-scale fisherfolks in the Philippines
Privilege Speech of Anakpawis Representative Fernando Hicap on the 16th year since legislation of Fisheries Code of 1998.
Honorable Speaker of the House and to my co-legislators in the lower House of Representatives, good afternoon to all of us.
Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to share the present situation of the poor Filipino fisherfolks. The year 2014 is the 16th year since the Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 was passed by Congress and signed into to law on February 24, 1998 by former President Fidel Valdez Ramos.
Mr. Speaker, Fisheries Code of 1998 was sealed by Philippine legislation to uplift the sorry situation of small fisherfolk across the country. Part of that promise of then President Ramos is the objective to liberate the Filipino fisherfolks from the deepest quagmire of poverty. The former President and other actors of the Philippines 200 regime professed that the law possessed major significant reforms on fisheries – such as to enhance the level of livelihood of the poor fisherfolk, raise productivity and promote modernization of domestic fisheries towards the achievement of social justice.
But Mr. Speaker, the promised of better future of the Fisheries Code of 1998 to over 1.3 million poor fisherfolks were meant to be broken. In fact, the outcome of said law was opposite. The poverty incidence among our fisherfolk has gone to worst.
Mr. Speaker, according to Filipino fisherfolk, Fisheries Code of 1998 is an epic failure, and a man-made catastrophe. It does not answer the fundamental problems on the lack of genuine land and fisheries reform. On the other hand, the poor fishermen were further marginalized and have kept so-called opportunities millions of miles away from fisherfolk.
Big and foreign commercial fishing vessels and even the locals continue to enter the municipal fishing grounds while the small-scale fisherfolks were stuck in less than 5 kilos of fish caught a day compare to the 1,000 kilos to 10,000 kilos average daily fish harvest of commercial fishing vessels.
Those big fishing vessels are the ones who exploit and manipulate the fishes that were supposed to be for the livelihood of poor fishermen. On the other hand, the perpetual privatization of fishing grounds is meant to give way to the corporate fishing companies to expand and culture our natural water that they can use for export. On the other side, it destroys and decreases the only main source of livelihood of the small-scale fisherfolks.
Some policies under the Fisheries Code of 1998 like the Zoning Ordinance and Color Coding limits small-scale fisherfolks to sail even around their fishing communities. They also suffer from regressive taxation and exorbitant fees imposed upon and collected by the government like fees arising from registration of fishermen, of the boats, engines and the equipments they used in fishing among others.
According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), in their survey done in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012, poorest Filipinos can be found at the coastal areas and fishing communities. It clearly means that the poorest and impoverished sector in the Philippines is the fisherfolk.
According also to government study, the poorest fishermen can be found in the region of Caraga, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Bicol region, Eastern Visayas, Negros Island, Panay Island, Central Visayas, and even in the regions of Ilocos, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and National Capital Region (NCR).
Mr. Speaker, according to the research of PAMALAKAYA, a national federation of fisherfolks in the Philippines, in those stated regions, it is very lucky for one fisherman to feed his family three times a day due to lack of income and opportunity.
For example in Laguna Lake, large numbers of fisherfolk families near Laguna de Bay are lucky to complete 3 meals a day due to intense poverty.
An ordinary fisherman earns only P50 to P150 per day because of the decreasing fish catch and impulsive increase in production cost resulting from high oil prices and other expenses incurred during fishing.
The income of fisherfolk is far from the P466 daily minimum wage that was set by the government, and is absolutely far from P1, 034 that a family with a 6 members needs in order to live.
Mr. Speaker, this pitiful situation of our small-scale fisherfolk is primary rooted to the grand failure of the government to carry out genuine land reform and fisheries and national industrialization
On the other hand, the perpetual bondage and obsession to export driven, import dependent orientation of domestic fisheries along the framework of liberalization, privatization and deregulation chiefly benefits big foreign and local fishing corporations.
The fisheries code and other laws, programs and policies keep the worse condition of the fisherfolks. There’s no modernization and national industrialization and the fisheries remain poor.
The heavy destruction in the fisheries sector courtesy of Fisheries Code of 1998 is much worsened by the present program like Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and the government’s desire to sell the fisheries zone and recourses to big and foreign investors and business.
Mr. Speaker, there are no more fishing grounds that is safe from the plan of Public-Private Partnership in these present days. There are no more fishing zones that are not the target of “development projects” that cause widespread dislocation in the livelihood and right of habitation of the Filipino fisherfolks.
The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) is all system goes to implement a nationwide reclamation in fishing communities. There are 102 reclamation projects that the PRA and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) planned to implement in the archipelago. It will cover 38,000 hectares of water, and 26, 234 hectares of NRP covered areas will be in Manila Bay.
Mr. Speaker, aside from the PPP and reclamation projects, there are other projects and programs that also devastate the livelihood and rights of the fisherfolk like Laguna Lake Master Development Plan, Manila Bay Master Development Program, Aurora Pacific Economic and Freeport Zone Project and those enormous eco-tourism projects in Visayas and Mindanao.
Mr. Speaker, our fishing grounds are also not safe from large-scale and destructive magnetite mining just like for example in Cagayan Valley, Ilocos region, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Negros, and in the Eastern Visayas Region.
In Eastern Visayas, majority of the victim of the super typhoon Yolanda are living in coastal municipalities where big black sand mining companies are hosted and given franchise to operate by the national and local authorities.
Mr. Speaker, the vast mining of oil and gas in the major seas in the country is just another issue of exploitation of our fisheries. There are 15 contracts of oil and gas exploration that the government agreed for foreign investors like the controversial Malampaya.
According to the study of PAMALAKAYA, it will reach 10 million hectares of sea in the country that are reserved for the investors in energy sector that will cover Cebu, Bohol Strait, Sulu Sea, Palawan and West Philippine Sea. Aside from the restriction to fish in the said places, the biodiversity in the fishing grounds will certainly be destroyed due to the unrestrained oil and gas exploration in the ocean waters of the Philippines.
Mr. Speaker, another big worry to us is the “No Build Zone, No Dwell Zone Policy” being carried in Region VIII and other areas. The policy will relocate the coastal people living in the coastal areas that was devastated by the super typhoon Yolanda in Visayas, Habagat in Luzon last 2013, and typhoon Ondoy in Laguna Lake and Manila Bay last 2009.
Mr. Speaker, small-scale fisherfolks do not believe that the “No Build Zone, No Dwell Zone Policy” is for the sake of their security and safety. But instead, this will serve as a “clearing operation” in order to give way to the PPP clients of Aquino regime.
Mr. Speaker, according to the DENR, the “No Build Zone, and No Dwell Zone Policy” is meant to give way to the proposed eco-tourism projects and economic zone in the name of PPP. It’s a disgusting law and policy.
The implementation of the “No Build Zone, No Dwell Zone Policy” under the iron fist of the chemistry of Aquino and Panfilo Lacson’s will result to vast displacement in fisheries sector.
Mr. Speaker, this looming displacement of small fisherfolk is a major cause of concern. Even the Laguna Lake Development Plan (LLDA) admitted it is having trouble on how and where to relocate the 1.9 million citizens near Laguna Lake once the government executes the No Build Zone Policy to give way to the foreign investors. In Manila bay, because of reclamation, approximately 5 million fisherfolks and urban poor from Cavite to Bataan will be forced to remove from their communities for the sake of reclamation and Public-Private Partnership project of Aquino’s administration.
Mr. Speaker, Business as usual is the response of the palace to victims and survivors of the calamity. The Aquino administration flaunts the Php 360 Billion rehabilitation program in Eastern Visayas for the advantage and benefits of big businesses while sending a collective warrant of dislocation to fisherfolks and urban poor.
Mr. Speaker, the national government has no genuine, sustaining and credible national disaster preparedness program, and this explains why super typhoon Yolanda caused massive destruction. The Aquino government indeed is the biggest disaster that ever happened to the people of this country.
Mr. Speaker, these are just some of the issues and consequences that are faced by the poor Filipino fisherfolk. The sorry situation of small fishermen will definitely worsen if this Lower House will insist the revision of the 1987 constitution through Charter Change.
Mr. Speaker, the fisherfolk are against the revision of the 1987 constitution because it will give way to the 100% foreign ownership of land. The fisherfolk disapprove to give license to foreign monopolies to seize the fishing grounds and plunder the rich marine resources of the country for desired monopoly
profits. This is not the answer to the poor situation of the fisherfolk.
Mr. Speaker to finish my statement, I would like to sum up my privilege speech with following points and calls:
- Junk the Fisheries Code of 1998!
- Stop the National Reclamation Plan and stop the black sand mining and oil and gas exploration in the whole archipelago.
- Stop the implementation of the No Build Zone, No Dwell Zone Policy and let the fisherfolks, farmers and urban poor return on their respective communities.
- Charter Change is not the key to the pitiful situation of the fisherfolks and poor people. They key to the genuine development are the genuine reform on land and fisheries and take the path of national industrialization.
Good afternoon, thank you very much and long live to all of us! ###