Fisherfolk group expressed reservations in the proposed ‘Fisheries Department’,
might say ‘yes’ only if..
Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) on Thursday raised its reservations and recommendations on the proposed Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) filed in the Senate.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, jointly with the Committees on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regularization and Finance will conduct a Public Hearing on the proposed DFAR today. The Senate Bills to be considered were filed by three senators including the S.B. No. 51 authored by Sen. Pangilinan, S.B. No. 242 authored by Sen. Legarda and S.B. No. 397 authored by Sen. Hontiveros.
According to the position paper submitted by Pamalakaya on Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and Food, they welcome the initiative to transform the Bureau of Fisheries into Department but it should simultaneously transform its laws, policies and programs affecting the fisheries sector as well.
The fisherfolk group said as long as the old fisheries laws and programs that do not benefit the fisherfolk are in the picture, this proposed agency would remain inutile and incompetent in addressing the plight of the impoverished fisherfolk and backward fishing industry in the country.
“As long as the 18-year old Fisheries Code of 1998 and its amendments are implemented, the fisherfolk sector won’t liberate from the shackles of poverty, even if there is this department that will focus on the sector,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya Chairperson said.
Pamalakaya said the objectives of the Senate Bills are opposite on its provisions like ‘protecting the rights of the small and subsistence fisherfolk to preferential use of the country’s fishery and aquatic resources’ yet there is no clear and significant solution in the bill that will truly protect the rights and welfare of the small fisherfolk.
“The Senate Bills focus only in the structures of the fisheries agency and adaptation of current fisheries laws, policies and programs that are no good to the fisherfolk. There is no significant solution on how to address the ongoing poverty of the fisherfolk neither protecting our coastal communities from the persistent attacks of rampant conversion, reclamation and privatization projects,” Hicap, a former Anakpawis Partylist solon said.
The fisherfolk group clarified they are not against the department of fisheries but such move will remain futile if the whole structure including its policies and programs will not be transformed and reoriented into a more holistic pro-fisheries structure. The fisherfolk are not calling for a fisheries department but for a genuine fisheries and aquatic reform that will genuinely address their plight and uphold their democratic rights and interests.
“We reiterate, we did not call for a department of fisheries, but we want the anti-fisherfolk Fisheries Code of 1998 to be repealed and enact a new and genuine fisheries reform law. Also, we want an assurance that coastal communities are spared from widespread reclamation that result to displacement of fisherfolk from their livelihood. Only addressing these issues will an agency become a pro-people and pro-fisherfolk, whether it be a department or not,” Hicap ended. ###