Group blames lack of systematic production support for decline of fisheries output
Manila, Philippines — The national fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) on Wednesday chided the Department of Agriculture (DA) for its “failure” to strengthen the agriculture and fisheries production during the public health emergency caused by the pandemic corona virus disease (COVID-19).
The fisherfolk group issued the statement after the latest Fisheries Situation Report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed a significant decline of fisheries production for the first quarter of this year which was at 980.7 thousand metric tons, lower by 3.2% from its 2019 same quarter production of 1, 013.04 thousand metric tons. Municipal fisheries subsector, which comprised 26.5% of the total fisheries production, registered a 3.4% decrease as catch dropped to 260.05 thousand metric tons during this year’s first quarter, from 269.18 thousand metric tons output a year ago.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA criticized the DA’s “Plant, Plant, Plant Program” or “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Labas sa Covid-19”, as a “market-driven” program, and does not actually address the plight and adverse impacts of the health crisis to the agricultural and fisheries production. The said program was approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) with P31-billion budget, purportedly to boost the agricultural production amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ensuring the availability and affordability of agri-fishery products in local markets is of the essence especially in the midst of an emergency situation, don’t get us wrong. But the government should not overlook the farmers and fisherfolks who are actually the country’s food security frontliners. How are we be able to establish stable food supply in the market if there is no significant program that will strengthen and systematize the countryside production?” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.
The fisherfolk lamented the limited fishing production, both on pre-harvest and post-harvest activities, since the implementation of the community quarantine. For two months now, PAMALAKAYA added, small fisherfolks are unable to go farther than their municipal fishing grounds due to quarantine restrictions. There were also incidents where fishermen were apprehended by maritime authorities for allegedly violating quarantine protocols.
“The government has little to no knowledge on the situation of small fisherfolk and farmers. Average fish catch in municipal waters continues to decrease to 2-3 kilos all time low per fishing trip. The income from fishing barely recover the production expenses, making our fisherfolk buried in debt. Aid for the fisherfolk and coastal families is always not included in any government accomplishment report. Thus, our question for more than two months now remains exactly the same: where is the production subsidy for small fishermen?” Hicap, former Anakpawis Party-list solon added.
“The government should be reminded that abandoning small fisherfolk who are engaged in municipal fishing is dangerous to the food supply, and we should all learn the lesson that food security during an emergency situation is an indispensable issue, next to public health. Strengthening agricultural and fisheries production by assisting farmers and fisherfolk is highly essential in keeping a stable food supply,” ended Hicap. ###