Fisherfolk caravan protests illegal fishing
By Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 02, 2005 12:00 AM Comments (0)
ANGELES CITY — Hundreds of fisherfolk from Sto. Tomas, La Union launched yesterday a two-week caravan to protest unabated illegal fishing that has adversely affected small fishermen.
Pablo Rosales, chairman of the newly organized Kilusang Mangingisda (KM), said the caravan would traverse coastal towns in 12 provinces in Northern and Southern Luzon.
Similar caravans were also launched in the Visayas and Mindanao.
"We only hope that the better future of fisherfolk is among the prayers of the President as we have become poorer than ever," said Rosales.
President Arroyo was in Rosales, Pangasinan yesterday to pray at the famous Marian grotto there.
"Filipino fisherfolk are getting poorer by the day. Fish catch is diminishing, while coastal resources are rapidly destroyed with the rampant illegal fishing and massive expansion of aquaculture projects in the Lingayen Gulf area," said Joe Leones Jr., leader of the Progresibong Alyansa ng Mangingisda (PANGISDA) La Union chapter.
Leones said the use of trawl or dragnet and buli-buli ringnet by big-time fishers is depleting marine resources.
Rosales said, "While illegal fishers encroach into the 15-kilometer municipal fishing grounds reserved for small fishermen, the expansion of aquaculture projects such as fishpens, fishponds and fishcages contributes to the rapid shrinking of fishing grounds for small fishermen and the deterioration of fishery resources."
"It is unfortunate that while the Constitution and fisheries laws and programs guarantee the prioritization of small fishermen in the 15-kilometer municipal waters, the sorry implementation and existing flaws in fishery laws all contribute to the present wretched situation of Filipino fisherfolk and resource degradation," he said.
Rosales said the KM is a coalition of five national fishermen’s federations and 13 regional fishermen’s organizations.
The two-week caravan is themed "Lakbayan para ipagtanggol ang pangisdaan (Caravan to defend Philippine fisheries)."
The caravan will end in Marinduque on Oct. 12, Rosales said.
Similar caravans were also launched yesterday in Bacolod City, Bohol, Cebu, Lanao and Davao, he added.
Rosales said the caravan includes a truck fitted with a mobile sound system and filled with reading materials, including comics and magazines, on the state of small fisherfolk and the degradation of fishery grounds nationwide.
Rosales said stickers and newsletters will be distributed along the way "to enlighten small fisherfolk on the problems of the fishery sector, both at the local and national level."
A forum will be held in each province the caravan visits, with national fisherfolk leaders and representatives of non-government organizations such as the Tambuyog Development Center, which specializes in fishery problems, sharing their views on present issues with the small fishermen, Rosales said.
Documentaries on fisheries will also be shown during these provincial fora and nightly stopovers in the host coastal communities, Rosales said.
The caravan of one truck and at least 15 jeepneys started from the "dried fish center" of Barangay Damortiz in Sto. Tomas, and then proceeded to the coastal barrios of Agoo, including the famous Aplaya Beach in Barangay San Manuel.
"Despite our efforts to resolve our problems via dialogues with the local government, our pleas remain unheard," Leones said.
Both Rosales and Leones cited the case of Sto. Tomas town where municipal officials have allegedly allowed the "expansion of aquaculture projects in the municipal waters for a maximum of P5,000 fee for every 20 feet by 20 feet fishcage, fishpen or fishtrap, without studying the effects on small fishers and the environment."
Since 2000, Leones said small fishermen in Sto. Tomas have been boycotting applications for motorboat licenses.
The Coast Guard has turned over the authority to issue such licenses to the local governments.
Leones and his fellow PANGISDA members said that while they could shell out P250 for the annual boat license, they opted not to renew them to protest rampant illegal fishing in municipal waters.
Meanwhile, Rosales said the KM is opposed to the proposed mining of magnetite minerals in coastal areas stretching from San Fabian town in Pangasinan to San Fernando City in La Union.
He said small fishermen fear that the mining operation would further prevent them from accessing coastal resources.