The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday said that Senator Francis Pangilinan was out of touch with reality for stating that the fisheries sector could be an “aquaculture superpower.”
Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said our country is capable of being an “aquaculture superpower” due to “our diverse fishing waters.”
He cited top fish exporting countries like France who earns 600 million euros annually from their oyster and mollusk industry.
Pamalakaya opposed the conversion of Philippine communal fishing waters into enclosed, private aquaculture oriented to export instead of promoting open-fishing grounds based on domestic consumption.
“Pangilinan is incognizant of the fact that our fishing industry is backward because of import-dependent and export-oriented production. The country’s reliance on export and import kills our local fish production and small producers. We export fresh marine products served on a silver platter overseas while importing low-quality, putrescent fish in return. Who is short-changed?” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairman and a former Anakpawis Partylist congressman, said in a statement.
The group said the country’s marine export dramatically rose 120 percent since 1994 despite the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report that our fish consumption drops by 15 percent yearly.
Pangilinan failed to mention that anti-fisherfolk laws, programs and policies are the primary reason why our fisherfolk, despite our archipelagic country, remains the poorest of the poor up to date, and not because of the absence of a fisheries department, said Hicap.
The Senate committee on agriculture and food, jointly with the committees on civil service, government reorganization and professional regularization and finance will hearing the arguments for and against SB 51 by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, SB 242 authored by Sen. Loren Legarda and SB 397 by Sen. Riza Hontiveros.
“We are not against the creation of a separate department for fisheries, but it should reorient the policies, laws and programs governing our fishing sector. Adaptation of the current fishing laws and policies won’t change anything but it will be another department hived by bureaucratic and corrupt officials making profit out of our poor fishers’ toil,” Hicap said.
The fisherfolk group called for a comprehensive and holistic transformation and reorientation of the Bureau of Fisheries into a pro-fisherfolk agency by enacting a new and genuine fisheries reform law.
“We challenge Senator Pangilinan to live with the most depressed fishing community for a couple of months and experience how the sector are being exploited and oppressed by the fishing laws and policies with nil support from the government,” Hicap said.