As Dar takes over agriculture department, fisherfolk demands scrapping of fisheries liberalization policies
Manila, Philippines – Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) joined the call of rice watch group Bantay Bigas to the newly-appointed agriculture secretary William Dar to protect the local rice industry amid the detrimental impacts of the Republic Act 11203, otherwise known as the Rice Liberalization Law (RLL) to small rice farmers across the country.
“We are one with the rice farmers and poor consumers in demanding the repeal of RLL and enactment of a nationalist and democratic proposal, House Bill 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA), filed by lawmakers under the Makabayan bloc,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said during the protest in front of the Department of Agriculture (DA) yesterday.
Hicap, a former Anakpawis Party-list solon, expounded that while the marginalized sectors are enduring the rice crisis, the liberalization in the fisheries sector, has intensified with the implementation of the Republic Act 10654 amending the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. The former solon and fisherfolk leader claimed that the law intended to shape the fishing production in the country towards aquaculture, from the traditional wild-capture fishing.
“Fisheries Code rampantly and undemocratically declares fishing bans affecting small fisherfolk, while commercial fishing fleets are free to enter the municipal waters intended for municipal fishers. For more than two decades of implementation of the Fisheries Code, it made the fisheries production into majority aquaculture. Amid liberalization, Dar’s promise to quadruple the agricultural productivity growth is plain old barber’s tale,” Hicap added.
Government’s data reported that volume of production of galunggong (round scad) and yellowfin tuna, fell by 8.15% and 12% from 2017 to 2018, respectively. Most hit was the commercial fishing sector, which classifies such as the rammed fishing boat F/B Gem-Ver 1, which fell by almost 1% or around 7,000 metric tons. More distressful, the group lamented, was that the volume from municipal fishing fell by almost 2% or by 20, 000 metric tons. Amid export-oriented production of fisheries sector, the government has even opened up the local market for liberalized importation of the 17, 000 metric tons of galunggong from China last year.
“While we export tuna and other high-grade fish products to rich countries, poor Filipinos are being put to danger with imported galunggong, which are usually tainted with formalin and other preservation chemicals,” added Hicap.
Hicap said that prices of fish products remain high for a minimum-wage earning family, such as the galunggong at P160 per kilo and tilapia at P120. ###