‘Stop arming the fishermen!’ – Pamalakaya to new BFAR Chief
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) on Monday denounced the militaristic approach of the new Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Eduardo Gongona in resolving the illegal activities in the Philippine waters.
This is in response to the creation of West Philippine Sea anti-illegal fishing task force and arming of the 600-Davao fishers for BFAR’s Bantay Laot Program. The Bantay Laot Program aims to equip the fishermen with weapons and run after the government’s so called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Pamalakaya said this might create rift between the fisherfolk and won’t actually solve the illegal activities in our fishing waters.
“This will be small-fishermen against small-fishermen. Instead of uniting the small fishers for the protection of our marine resources, BFAR wants to stir up a hornet’s nest between them by arming each other and running after another,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya Chairperson said in a statement.
“Arming the fishermen might lead to vigilantism resulting to lawlessness and indiscriminate killings in the sea. This is no different from the creation of lawless-vigilante groups during then President Corazon Aquino’s time”, Hicap added.
Pamalakaya said it is the obligation of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and armed forces to protect and watch out for illegal activities in the sea committed by no other than foreign illegal poachers and large fishing fleets going in and out of the municipal fishing waters.
“It is the government’s duty to protect our seas and watch for the welfare of our fishermen. The fisherfolk cannot afford to take up arms and run after the others, they should be at the sea making livelihood and nothing else,”
“Weapons and ammunitions are the last thing the fishermen want, what they need is a government support that will advance their daily subsistence,” Hicap said.
This militaristic aspiration of BFAR is under its 5-year development program called Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) 2016-2020 which aims to make the country’s fisheries products a ‘global competitive’ by the year 2020. And one of its schemes is to advance BFAR’s military facilities and equipments by allotting a budget worth of P6.646-B for the purchase of patrol boats, white ships, weapons and drones for ‘security’ purposes.
Pamalakaya criticized BFAR’s military scheme for this is out of the bureau’s mandate.
“We urge the new BFAR Director to forgo the militaristic and fascism approach in rooting out the plight of our fishermen and problems in our fishing waters. This won’t solve anything but a clash among the fishermen. BFAR should instead focus on uplifting the livelihood of the fishermen through genuine fisheries programs and reforms that will advance the welfare of the poorest of the poor sector in our country,” Hicap ended. ###