Fisherfolk leaders bare wish list to presidential bets

Aika Rey
Fisherfolk leaders bare wish list to presidential bets
The leaders say they want the reforms under the Aquino administration to be sustained, but they would defer any endorsement until they've heard all the other candidates

LAGUNA, Philippines – About 2,000 representatives of the fisherfolk  sector marched to Old Town Plaza in Calamba City on Thursday, March 17, to present their 9-point priority agenda to presidential aspirants.

The sector challenged candidates to pursue the following:

  1. Establish fisherfolk settlements in accordance with Republic Act 8550 especially in Laguna-affected areas in Laguna Lake
  2. Develop sustainable livelihoods and capacity-building for fisherfolk through the conservation, protection, sustainable management and development of fisheries resources in municipal waters
  3. Capacity building in fishery law enforcement
  4. Institutionalize Bottom-up Budgetting
  5. Delineate municipal waters
  6. Campaign against illegal mining/logging/banana plantations
  7. Establish the Bantay Bakawan program to eliminate illegal mangrove cutting in coordination with concerned agencies and organizations
  8. Climate change mitigation and adaptation
  9. Create the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources

The forum was attended by leaders and members of fisherfolk groups from Calabarzon, Navotas, and Zambales.

Laguna Second District Representative Joaquin Chipeco Jr represented Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II at the gathering, while the LP vice presidential bet, Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo was represented by her niece, Gaile Robredo-Vitas. 

Senatorial bet Risa Hontiveros, a guest candidate of the Daang Matuwid coalition, also attended the event.

More reforms needed

Pablo “Ka Pabs” Rosales, president of the Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda (PANGISDA), said that reforms have been made under the Aquino administration but these are not enough.

He said the sector is counting on the next administration to expand the reforms.

“[Ang] gusto namin, ipagpatuloy at palawakin pa ng susunod na presidente ang mga reporma sa pangisdaan (What we want for the next president is to continue and expand the reforms in fisheries),” Rosales said.  (READ: ‘Make fisheries an election issue’ – fisherfolk leaders)

National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Vice Chairperson Ruperto “Ka Uper” Aleroza said government should provide benefits such as life and accident insurance to members of the community-based fisheries patrol group Bantay Dagat.

Maghapon at magdamag silang nagpa-patrol dahil ayaw nilang maabuso ang karagatang bumubuhay sa kanila (They patrol the seas day and night to protect seas that give them livelihood, from abuse),” he said.

Bantay Dagat (sea patrol) is a program of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to protect marine environment 15 kilometers from the shore, and to provide assistance in rescue operations. Patrol groups are composed of community-based fisherfolk.

Under the Philippine Fisheries Code, Bantay Dagat volunteers are entitled to an honorarium. While others receive about P1,200 per month, Aleroza said most of them risk their lives to patrol the sea without expecting anything in return.

Gains so far

FISHERIES UNDER DAANG MATUWID. NAPC Lead Convenor Joel Rocamora says that the key to sustaining the fisheries program is to elect Daang Matuwid candidates. Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler.com

During the forum,NAPC Lead Convenor Joel Rocamora cited the concrete programs for the sector under the Aquino administration.

More than 500 fish landings have been constructured for fishermen – 252 funded under the 2015 national budget. Rocamora estimated that each fish landing is used by about 100 fishermen.

He said over 200,000 homes for fisherfolk have been built from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) reconstruction funds.

The NAPC official also shared that BFAR’s 2015 budget is twice as much as in  2010, or to P6.32 billion last year from P3.3 billion in 2010. Rocamora said he expects a bigger budget for BFAR in 2017, as the budget call for next year was made in January.

The representatives of the administration tandem and Hontiveros assured the sector that they would sustain and build on these gains.

Rocamora echoed this. “Makakasigurado lang tayo na patuloy itong mga programa para sa inyo kung makapaghalal tayo ng presidente at bise presidente na nakakaintindi ng mga programang ito,” he said, as he pushed for the Daang Matuwid candidates from the national to the local levels.

Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) is the slogan used by the Aquino administration and is the Liberal Party’s (LP) catch-all phrase for its good governance, anti-corruption, and transparency platform.

Fisherfolk to candidates: ‘Hear us’

Rosales told Rappler that they are not campaigning for any candidate. It just so happened, he said, that their first batch of guests are from the administration coalition.

“Ang plano talaga diyan ay ihapag sa iba’t ibang presidentiable. Nauna lang sila (The plan really is to lay [the agenda] to other presidential candidates. It just so happened that they were the first), he said.

Rosales agreed that they want the reforms under the Aquino administration to be sustained, but they want to hear out all the other candidates before deciding on who to support.

“Maaring bago pa dumating ang eleksyon, magpatawag pa kami ng iba pang presidentiable. I-present namin ang agenda ng sektor (Before the elections, we can call for other presidentiables. We can present the agenda of the sector), he said.

Among the candidates, however, only Roxas has signed a manifesto with the groups. Rosales said that no other candidate has expressed the same high level of support for the sector just yet.

Latest figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that poverty incidence among fishermen is at 39.2%. According to NAPC, there are about 1.6 million fishermen in the country. Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.