A FISHERS’ group and its sympathizers marked Monday, February 24, the 22nd year of the Fisheries Code of 1998 which they denounced as “the most inappropriate law” in the country.
“We are composed of more than 7,000 islands, more than 200 million hectares of territorial waters, around 60 percent of the population are either located or related at fisheries areas, but we have this law that pushes aquaculture or the capital-intensive and ecosystem hazard sub-sector, than open sea fishing,” said militant Anakpawis leader Ariel Casilao.
The anniversary of the Fisheries Code of 1998 was marked in what organizers called Climate Strike, led by the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), which demanded “climate action” from the Duterte administration.
In a statement, Pamalakaya demanded not only the scrapping of the code, but also “climate action against rising seas and reclamation projects that destroy marine life and mangrove forest that serves as natural defense line against flooding and storm surges.”
The group cited government date indicating that “from 2010 to 2018, aquaculture, already reached more than half of the total fisheries production, from being only at 32 percent from 1991 to 1997 before the Fisheries Code of 1998 was implemented.”
Casilao noted that “since 2010, fisheries sector growth rate has been stagnant, and sometimes negative. Even aquaculture fell from its average growth rate of 11 percent in 2003 to 2010, to four percent from 2011 to 2018. Worse, import dependency on fish products are increasing.”
“Duterte government is actually undermining self-sufficiency by promoting import liberalization such as the 17,000 and 45,000 metric tons of galunggong in 2018 and 2019,” he said.
Casilao lamented that “the Fisheries Code-imposed fish bans are so undemocratic that it could abruptly throw poor fishermen into indebtedness, poverty and hunger, while it allows big commercial fishing vessels, including Chinese ones, to over-exploit and even illegally poach in the West Philippine Sea.”
He also denounced the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Administrative Order No. 5 (PCSD AO5) that prohibits poor fishermen from catching “lapu-lapu” in the area from April to June.
“The Fisheries Code enabled the Palawan local government to oppress poor fishermen, bar them from catching ‘lapu-lapu’ on the very period they could, during calm waters. The set open season is typhoon season and with northeast monsoon, when only big commercial fishing vessels could operate,” he noted.
“The Fisheries Code is an epic failure, that downgrades the already ‘poorest of the poor’ fisherfolk sector into dire poverty. This should be urgently repealed and replaced with a nationalist and democratic fisheries program,” he said.
He said Anakpawis is finalizing its draft Genuine Fisheries and Aquatic Reform Bill (GFARB) “that mainly pushes for sustainable fishing and protection of fishing rights of poor fisherfolk in the country. It also proposes the serious public investment to the sector, primarily for the utilization of the exclusive economic zone as a national fishing ground and protection from plunder and destruction by foreign countries such as China.” (Ding Cervantes/SunStar Pampanga)