DESPITE the Fisheries Code of 1998 that was meant to empower them, fishermen are still trapped in the net of extreme poverty, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas said on the 19th anniversary of the law.
Pamalakaya held a protest at Mendiola, Manila on Friday with hundreds of fishermen from different provinces in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon expressing their outrage at the Fisheries Code’s failure to uplift their impoverished lives.
“Now is the high time for the government to assess and sum up what significant help this fishing law has done to the fishing sector for 19 years. Even the government can’t deny and hide the prevailing poverty among the fisherfolk sector,” Pamalakaya chairperson Fernando Hicap said.
Government data through the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that highest poverty incidence manifests in the fishing sector, with 39.2-percent poverty rate or two out of five fisherfolk strive with P52 and below per day.
“How unfortunate that despite being an archipelagic country endowed with abundant marine resources, the sector that supposed to savor the wealth is the one who suffers from chronic hunger and poverty,” Hicap said.
Pamalakaya said the Fisheries Code of 1998 has opened the flood gates for liberalization of our fishing waters through import-dependent and export-oriented fishing production while our country and the Filipino people suffer from food insecurity and hunger for decades without end.
“The Fisheries Code has only adhered to the foreign-prescribed monopoly control over the fruits of our seas without actually advancing the rights of our fishers. This can be seen by the surge of our marine export where tons after tons of our marine harvests are being served in a silver platter overseas. This export oriented production has gradually depletes not only our domestic fish supply but also the fish stocks in the seas,” Hicap said.
The group said even the amendments of the Fisheries Code under Republic Act 10654 is dictated by foreign market under the guise of combating its so-called “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing but in reality, the real score is to limit and curtail the fishing activities of our small fishermen.
The group called for the scrapping of the amended Fisheries Code and the enactment of a genuine fisheries reform law.