The House of Representatives will help secure P200 million in direct cash assistance for some 8,000 fishermen who lost all sources of livelihood as a result of the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, Speaker Martin Romualdez said on Wednesday.
Romualdez met with the leaders of the fishermen’s group in his office where they expressed their desire to seek remuneration from the owners of the ill-fated motor tanker M/V Princess Empress.
The tanker, which was carrying 800,000 liters of fuel oil, sank in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on Feb. 28, affecting nearby municipalities and provinces.
The massive oil spill that resulted affected as many as 193,436 individuals from Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Western Visayas regions.
The National Bureau of Investigation earlier recommended the filing of charges against the owners and crew members of M/V Princess Empress as well as officials and personnel of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Romualdez told the leaders of the fishermen’s group that his office will work to secure funds from the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating
Disadvantaged / Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program of the Department of Labor and Employment for the distribution of P24,000 each for the 8,000 Oriental Mindoro fishermen affected by the oil spill.
Aside from natural and man-made disasters, overfishing has also impacted on the country’s fish supply, prompting President Ferdinand Marcos to declare he is considering seasonal fishing bans in breeding areas.
Fish farmers are likewise pushing for stronger aquaculture support from the government and local government units (LGUs) to sustain the growth of the fisheries sub-sector and continue to increase its share in the country’s food security pie.
Food sector stakeholder Philip Ong said the country’s fish farming industry has already surpassed the contribution of both capture fishing and municipal fishing in 2021.
“Aquaculture provides both livelihood and food security. Fish farming is very low risk for the country, though it’s high risk for those of us who dare to venture into this industry,” he said.
Ong is the chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Imc (PCAFI) and founder of aquafeeds producer Santeh Feeds Corporation and its subsidiary, Fishta Seafood, Inc, a seafood supplier to supermarkets and food institutions.
Ong suggested that LGUs should prioritize aquaculture before allowing more resorts to open along coastlines and lakes.
“LGUs need to create sustainable aquaculture in their locality that will need support such as long term permits, proper zoning, exclusive area for business, proper mooring and jetties,” he said.
Ong noted that the closed season for tamban (sardines) and galunggong (roundscad) is observed by the fishing community during the tail end of November to February of the following year.
The closed season for tamban and galunggong covers commercial fishers only, but municipal fishers are allowed to ply the waters year round.
“We have to give fish a break – temporarily disallow fishes to harvest fish until the spawning period is over,” Ong said.