NegOcc small fishers slam proposed measure favoring commercial fishers

CALLING it anti-poor, anti-environment and anti-sustainable development, leaders of various small fisher groups in the province hit a proposed measure at the House of Representatives for allegedly favoring commercial fishers.

Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM-Negros), in a statement Monday, February 8, 2021, said House Bill (HB) No. 7853 authored by Cebu Third District Representative Pablo John Garcia aims to amend the Fisheries Code of 1998 particularly Section 18 to expand the possible area of operations of small and medium commercial fishing vessels into municipal waters.

The said bill proposes to allow the entry of commercial fishers into the 10.1 kilometers to 15 kilometers zone as defined by Republic Act 8550 even without the enactment of a local ordinance allowing such entry.

The group said as defined by the Fisheries Code, commercial fishing refers to use of fishing vessels weighing three gross tons or above, or those using active gears. Reportedly, HB 7853 is due for an initial hearing today, February 9.

The small fisher leaders, who belong to partner organizations of PRRM-Negros, said HB 7853 threatens to undercut and erode the gains made in decades of their exacting struggles for sustainable fisheries and better coastal resource management.

Roy Santiago, a fisher leader in Cauayan town, said the bill if passed into law will undermine the power and capacity of the local government units (LGUs) and further disempower small fishers in affected localities in managing their already depleted coastal and marine resources.

"Surely, it will lead to the further destruction of the coastal environment," he added.

In the same press statement, Federation of Small Fisherfolk Associations of Hinigaran chairperson Judy Gepulle said the proposed legislation seeks to give automatic access and entry to commercial fishers within the municipal waters even without the need for a local ordinance on such matters. It will legalize illegal fishing locally, she averred.

For Abid Villacasten, chair of the newly-formed North Negros Small Fishers Council, it is a form of social injustice, giving more privilege to the powerful while threatening the livelihoods of the small and marginal fishers who are already suffering from deprivation wrought by the pandemic.

Villacasten urged small fishers to unite and strongly oppose this unjust measure.

More fisher groups have further slammed the move.

Edwin Espinosa, convenor of the Alyansa sg Magagmay nga Mananagat sang Bacolod, said the proposal will lead to more and unabated intrusion by commercial fishing vessels into municipal waters, thus, resulting in more overfishing, more fish stock and biodiversity loss.

“Therefore, it will lead to more hunger and poverty for the small fishers and coastal communities,” he said.

For his part, Negros Small Fishers Alliance chair Tony Castillo, also the former Provincial Fisherfolk representative, called on the coastal LGUs and Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils in every locality to forge unity and together struggle in opposing and in preventing the passage of the bill.


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