Fishers’ group promotes fresh produce at “Bagsakan” solidarity and agri-fishery fair

There’s plenty of fish in seas
Fishers’ group promotes fresh produce at “Bagsakan” solidarity and agri-fishery fair

Manila, Philippines – On this year’s Bagsakan: No Justice, No Peace, a solidarity gathering and peasant’s fair organized by group of artists and land reform advocates Sama-samang Artista Para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) for the Filipino peasants, the activist fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) sold fresh and live tilapia (St. Peter’s fish).

The fresh and live tilapia were directly sourced from small fishermen and the group’s local members in Laguna de Bay, to ensure market for their produce. Aside from helping the livelihood of the fishermen, PAMALAKAYA said, promoting of local fishery products on the event was to manifest that “there is no shortage” of the staple fish product, contrary to the claim of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to justify importation.

The DA, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), has proposed to import at least 400, 000 metric tons (MT) of galunggong (round scad) among other pelagic fish this year, purportedly to address the inflation and dwindling supply.

The DA’s food supply outlook showed that by the last quarter of the year, galunggong and tilapia would have deficits of 51, 765 MT and 12, 036 MT, respectively.

But PAMALAKAYA has objected the proposal, saying “resorting to importation would do more harm than good to the local producers”, as imported fish would “outcompete locally-produced fishery products, leaving small fishers at a disadvantage”.

“Walang katotohanang may shortage ng tilapia, dahil halos hindi na nga ito maibenta ng mga mangingisda sa dami ng supply. Sa pagdedeklara ng DA na may kakulangan sa tilapia, nangangamba kaming maging batayan ito para mag-angkat. Sa importasyon, laging talo ang mga maliliit na mangingisda dahil lalong bumabagsak ang presyo ng produkto namin,” Ronnel Arambulo, PAMALAKAYA leader in Laguna de Bay said during the Bagsakan event.

The fishers’ group said that flooding local market with imported fish would further pulldown the farmgate prices of fish in local fishers, for instance, farmgate price of tilapia is at P40-P50 per kilogram, but its market price reaches P120-P130 per kilogram.

“Kung papapasukin ang mga imported na tilapia at iba pang isda, lalong mawawalan nang halaga ang mga huli namin,” Arambulo decried.

For his part, PAMALAKAYA’s National Chairperson and former Anakpawis Party-list solon said that the country’s reliance on imports is the result of liberalization policies in agriculture and fisheries. The fisherfolk leader said that fish importation is “akin to how local rice farmers are being lambasted by the impacts of imported rice courtesy of the Rice Liberalization Law”.

“The country’s liberalization policies exacerbated the import-dependent character of the Philippine fisheries to the detriment of our fisherfolk. Instead comprehensively addressing the continuous agricultural crisis, the government always resorts to band-aid solution,” ended Hicap.

Like the first Bagsakan held last year, the event featured performances from various independent artists who are advocates of land reform. It was held at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City where guests were able to purchase fresh produce from farmers and fisherfolk. ###

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