Fisherfolk stormed BFAR to demand the immediate release of calamity fund to
Manila, Philippines – Fisherfolk under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) trooped to the office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to demand the immediate relief and assistance to the fisherfolk who are currently suffering from the onslaught of El Nino.
The El Nino phenomenon or prolonged dry spell is now devastating the rural areas, gravely affecting the lives and livelihoods of the rural people especially farmers and fisherfolk.
Pamalakaya demands the immediate release of BFAR’s calamity fund worth P673M directly to fisherfolk who have been devastated by the El Nino phenomenon.
“We assert the immediate release of this calamity fund in the form of economic relief and subsidy to fishers who are suffering from fish catch depletion due to this drought.” Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson said in a statement.
BFAR accounts that at least 100,000 fisherfolk are affected by El Nino with an estimated reduction of fish catch within municipal waters by 279,000 tons or 23 percent.
Roman Antazo, Pamalakaya Secretary General and a fisherfolk from Laguna de Bay lamented that even before the drought, they are already experiencing fish catch depletion due to the deteriorating condition of the lake, and now the El Nino phenomenon makes their condition even worse, as they are oftentimes going home with empty nets.
Antazo said that farm gate price of fish also drastically drops all time low during drought, reducing further whatever income they can bring home to their families. Farm gate price of tilapia is now P20 per kilo compared to pre-drought price of P50 per kilo or a drop of 40% while bangus (milkfish) is now P50 per kilo, a 71% drop from a pre-drought price of P70 per kilo.
Pedro Gonzales, also a Pamalakaya official lambasted the insensitivity and dilly-dallying of the BFAR in addressing the calamity.
“Wala na kaming makain pero ang BFAR ay nagpapaliguy-ligoy pa sa pagbibigay ‘calamity fund’ na para sa mga mangingisda. Nasa amin ang ‘calamity’ nasa BFAR naman ang ‘fund’.” Gonzales said during the protest.
“This dry-spell is inflicting too much hardship to the lives of the fisherfolk. We are not begging but we are asserting what is rightfully ours. This government is accountable to us. The small-fishers are in dire need of support funds to feed their families and mitigate the economic impact of this extreme heat disaster besetting the country. It is very crucial that the millions of pesos of calamity funds now in the hands of BFAR be given to drought affected fishers at all cost and without further delay.” France concluded.
During the protest, a BFAR official named Atty. Benjamin Tabios came out from their office to hear the demands of the fishers, but the official is oblivious to the details of the calamity fund the fishers are demanding. Instead, BFAR Director Asis Perez requested a separate dialogue to Pamalakaya to settle the issue.
Joining the protest were fisherfolk leaders from the provinces of Batangas, Rizal and Cavite. ###