CARAGA fishers, farmers stage Manila Protest Caravan against Martial Law
Manila, Philippines – On the third month of President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, around 200 combined fishers and farmers from Region XIII CARAGA under the national fisherfolk and peasant groups Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) arrived in Manila for a month-long protest caravan dubbed as “Lakbayan at Kampuhan ng Maralita mula sa Kanayunan ng CARAGA” to register their plight in the countryside and demand the Duterte administration of the lifting of the extended martial law in whole Mindanao.
At least 50 fisherfolk from the provinces of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte brought their sentiments regarding the excessive taxes and fees, strict restrictions and fishing regulations under the amended Fisheries Code of 1998 or the Republic Act 10654 which was enacted during then-President Benigno Aquino III.
The amended Fisheries Code promulgates to curtail the so-called illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) which the fisheries department blames on the exploitation of fishing resources. But the fisherfolk group said the enforcement of the amended law in reality targets small time fisherfolk who are unable to comply with their registration scheme rather than the giant commercial fishing fleets that use destructive and exploitive fishing technologies.
“While the designated sea patrols of the BFAR are very rigorous in enforcing the law to small fisherfolk, big-time commercial fishing fleets continue to exploit fishing resources that are allotted for the municipal fisherfolk in the first place. They use sophisticated fishing technologies that are relatively destructive and exploitative compared to our backward fishing gears,”
“Almost all of our fishing gears even the backward ones are subject to registration with corresponding fees from the local government; from the fishing boat, net, fishing rod, up to the simplest equipments like flash lights, buckets, and even dippers that we use to store fish. There is no more left for us from our small income due to these unjust and excessive registration fees under the amended fisheries law. The old Fisheries Code was already worse, now the amendments worsen it further,” Greco Regala, Chairperson of PAMALAKAYA-Agusan del Norte said in a statement.
The provisions of the amended fisheries code are under the mandate of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) but its enforcement is through the local government units (LGU). Range of taxes and fees, and the scope of restrictions vary on the policy imposed by the LGUs.
“We have temporarily left our families and livelihood in Mindanao to expose the plight of farmers and fishers in our province caused by existing government laws and programs. As well as to garner broad public support for our central call to tentatively stop some provisions in the amended fisheries code particularly the miscellaneous hefty taxes and fees, and all the unjust and strict fishing policies,” Added Regala.
The CARAGA contingents set up their protest camp at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and will be holding series of picket protests and dialogues with various government agencies concerning their issues in the coming days. ###